Manchester City eased through their first leg semi final of the Carabao sponsored Football League Cup last night against League One minnows Burton Albion with a whopping 9-0 win this days after beating Championship strugglers Rotherham United 7-0 in the third round of the FA Cup.
The two ties matching the billionaire backed champions of England against small time clubs punching above their weight proved the gulf of class evident, perhaps a little sad too with Pep Guardiola and Manchester City receiving stick in some quarters for the way they went about their business.
“They should have eased off” said many as City saw no mercy against their weaker opponents opting to go for the jugular rather than easing the clock down with pass, pass, pass. Against Rotherham, City scored three goals in the last twenty minutes, against Burton they scored five in the second half. But easing off was never an option, the biggest respect they could pay both Rotherham and Burton was to play the way they did, in the FA Cup they started the match with 10 full internationals and ended the game with 9, in the League Cup they started with 8 and ended with 9. It seems whatever side City put out it’s always going to be too strong for those of a lesser league. But should City have gone so strong to see off their much weaker opponents?
Cast your mind back to 11 months ago when a Manchester City team of 11 experienced internationals went to Wigan Athletic of League One. Unsavoury scenes that day could not take away the achievement of a team two divisions apart worth millions and millions less as they upset the odds to shock the world in a thrilling FA Cup upset. Guardiola was not a happy man, Manchester City the team everyone was talking about for the way they played were not a happy team. A severe dent in pride yes, a huge embarrassment also.
Almost a year on and Guardiola I can assure you still remembers that extremely low day for Manchester City. The articulation to detail and the finer points he emphasises on just a couple of reasons why he is so highly thought of as one of the best coaches in world football, not only that, Guardiola is always learning. He learned that in the FA Cup there are no gimmies, in England every game is tough if you don’t prepare right, and learning that the hard way against Wigan on a cold Monday night in Februuary ensured he prepared for Rotherham and Burton Albion by giving his opponent as much respect as possible, thus the end result was clear for all to see.
The performances of Manchester City this week tells you a lot about Guardiola the coach, it tells you a lot about how he demands his team to be none forgiving and professional at all times. When Pep first came to England I had my doubts, he managed the best teams and they won things, how easy it is to do that, but seeing his work on these shores and seeing how he gets the best out of his team playing his way is not only refreshing but inspiring to any fan of football.
Currently Manchester City lie 4 points behind Liverpool (who have their own revolutionary football philosophy themselves) at the top of the Premier League table. I expect that gap to be closed some time soon and City to be back proudly on top of that perch, because having been there and done it with a Coach that knows how, they certainly know what to expect when it comes to the business end of the season.
And who’s to say come what May, Manchester City could be on the verge of making history even bettering their cross town rivals United and those famous treble winners of 99. With the League Cup, FA Cup, League Championship and Champions League all very attainable for the sky blues this year, only Guardiola and his men can stop themselves dreaming big.