Paul Merson on why Man City's dominance in pursuit of the treble outshines Man Utd's heroes of 1999; Sky Sports pundit fears Premier League is becoming too one-sided in Pep Guardiola's era but credits Arsenal for taking title race to the wire
Wednesday 24 May 2023 08:57, UK
Paul Merson says Manchester City will eclipse Manchester United's treble-winners of 1999 if they go on to add the FA Cup and Champions League to their Premier League triumph.
City were crowned champions of England for the third successive season - and the fifth time in six years - when Arsenal lost at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.
The trophy lift came on Sunday after a 1-0 victory over Chelsea - their 12th consecutive league win - and Pep Guardiola's side now have their sights on the FA Cup final against Manchester United on June 3 and the Champions League final against Inter Milan in Istanbul on June 10.
Win those two finals and City will become only the second team in English football history to win that treble of trophies, after rivals United's historic 1998/99 season.
And for Merson, the manner of City's treble-winning push means success on three fronts would surpass the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson's side more than two decades ago...
If Manchester City win the Treble, it will be the best ever.
If you go through the Manchester United one in 1998/99, Dennis Bergkamp misses a penalty with the last kick of the game in the FA Cup semi-final, United win.
Against Bayern Munich, it wasn't far off one of the most one-sided Champions League finals you'll ever see. Bayern were taking people off at the end to get a round of applause. Players were running through trying to lob Peter Schmeichel.
In the Premier League, the title was in Arsenal's hands before they lost at Leeds in the penultimate game of the season. Manchester United got lucky in 1999, but if City go on and win the treble, there will be no luck involved at all.
City destroyed reigning champions Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, they embarrassed them, it was cringeworthy.
Even when City played Arsenal away in the Premier League, which was a must-win game, they played that game with the confidence that even if Arsenal had won, they would still catch them.
They are the only team about that can reel off 10 or more wins on the trot in the blink of an eye, like it's a walk in the park on a summer's day.
No one is going to beat Manchester City as long as Pep Guardiola is there. Pep is the Premier League's equivalent to Phil Taylor in darts. Who's going to beat them? It doesn't matter how many signings a club makes, no one is winning the Premier League while Guardiola is there.
I know people say he's got all the money, all the players, but he's still got to get the job done and win. You see players moaning at other clubs when they are not playing, you never seen that at Manchester City, where the likes of Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez have been sitting on the bench at times this season. No one says a thing, they get on with it.
Don't get me wrong, winning the Premier League is difficult even with Guardiola at the helm, but he is head and shoulders above the others. The other managers have got to get moving because Guardiola is beating everybody with his brain.
Having dominated games last season playing a false nine, they brought in Erling Haaland in the summer and, all of a sudden, City are not having as much of the ball as they used to.
Joao Cancelo's role rewrote football to an extent last season and then the next minute he was sent on loan to Bayern Munich. Then, Guardiola's solution to dominating the ball without Cancelo was to bring John Stones into midfield!
I mean, how can you play Bernardo Silva as a full-back and not get roasted? It's mind-blowing. I don't think people understand how clever Guardiola is. He has ideas beyond anybody else.
Sometimes they don't work, that's football, but most of the time they do, and he's the reason why this Manchester City team is doing what Barcelona were doing under him.
I'm not a great believer in the narrative that Arsenal bottled the Premier League. We should be praising Arsenal for giving it a go, because if you were to take them away, the next closest challenger would have been Newcastle who are 20 points behind.
We're lucky Arsenal kept the title race competitive in the end. It may feel like Manchester City have run away with it in the final weeks of the season, but it was heads or tails between them and Arsenal at the start of April.
If you look at the bigger picture, you could say the Premier League is getting too one-sided. If you take Arsenal out the equation, the accusation levelled at Europe's other big leagues over the past decade could be levelled at the Premier League.
In Germany, Bayern Munich are on course to lose the league with Borussia Dortmund closing on a first title since 2012, Napoli have won Serie A for the first time since Diego Maradona was at the club.
Take Arsenal out of the Premier League and you'd be saying this is the most one-sided league about. That's not really been the case throughout history, so that is where Arsenal deserve a little bit of credit.
But there was never been any panic from Manchester City. You watched them the other week at Everton where they didn't look like scoring a goal in the opening 30 minutes, Kevin de Bruyne wasn't playing. There was absolutely no panic at all.
They kept on passing the ball and then crash, bang, wallop the game is over. This is not the first time they have won 12 games on the spin, this is just the way Manchester City go about things, they blow people away.