June 15, 2024

Manchester City step up their pursuit of a first-ever quadruple this week. It’s still only September, and the 2023-24 season is just over a month old, but Pep Guardiola’s team have become so formidable that talk of previously unimagined glory has now become the norm.

City have rewritten the record books since Guardiola arrived in the summer of 2016, and by the time the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach ends his spell in charge at the Etihad, they are likely to have surpassed even more historical milestones.

Stream on ESPN+: Carabao Cup. LaLiga, more (U.S.)

Whether it is good for the game is debatable. There may also be an asterisk alongside many of City’s achievements if the club is found guilty of 115 charges of breaching the Premier League’s financial rules. (City deny the charges and say they have a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence” to prove their innocence.)

What is clear is that City are one of the greatest teams the English game has ever seen; Guardiola’s squad now has such quality and depth that no record or achievement is beyond them.

No English club has ever won four successive league titles, but they could be the first to do so this season and, at the same time, eclipse the great Huddersfield, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United (twice) as teams that achieved three in a row.

When Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal “Invincibles” became the first side to win the Premier League without suffering a defeat in 2003-04, it seemed a feat that would never be repeated. But City have already won six from six in the league this season and haven’t even looked like losing, despite being without key players like Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones and Jack Grealish for much of the campaign due to injury.

Having become only the second English club to pull off a Champions League/Premier League/FA Cup treble last season — 24 years after Manchester United achieved what many regarded as a unique, never-to-be-repeated success in 1999 — City travel to Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup third round on Wednesday (stream live on ESPN+ at 3 p.m. ET) looking to add the one major trophy they missed out on during 2022-23.

Newcastle are perhaps one of the few teams capable of beating City, especially at St James’ Park, but Guardiola’s side will head into the game as favourites, as they do every time they play.

Other teams have enjoyed periods of dominance in the Premier League era, but City have set the bar to a new level.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s great United teams always possessed a frailty and tendency to implode, even at their best. Five months after achieving a league and FA Cup double in 1996, they suffered three straight league defeats, including 5-0 at Newcastle and 6-3 at Southampton, before turning things around to win the title again that same season. Guardiola’s City don’t have the same self-destruct button.

Wenger’s “Invincibles” were an outstanding team, yet they failed to defend their Premier League crown, while Jose Mourinho’s first two seasons at Chelsea delivered two successive titles, but Champions League glory always eluded the him at Stamford Bridge.

Guardiola has done everything at City that Wenger and Mourinho failed to do at Arsenal and Chelsea respectively; it is only Ferguson’s longevity during a 26-year spell at United that is likely to prevent Guardiola from surpassing the Scot’s record of 13 league titles (he has five now.)

The ominous reality for the rest this season, including impressive rivals Arsenal and Liverpool, is that Guardiola’s City are growing stronger all the time. In Erling Haaland, they possess perhaps the most lethal striker that England has ever seen, and after setting a new record of 36 goals in a Premier League season last term, the 23-year-old has started off with eight in six games.

City are solid at the back, too, having conceded just three times so far, and are the only team to have a 100% record. Maintaining that record all season is likely to be beyond even Guardiola’s City team, but such is their strength and absolute determination to win everything available to them, nobody would be surprised if they managed it. City have steamrollered over so many other records that nothing seems beyond them.

They have the longest winning run in all competitions (21 games, 2020-21), the longest winning league run (19, 2017), most successive away wins (20, 2020-21), most goals in a Premier League season (106, 2017-18), and most points (100, 2017-18.) Their 6-0 FA Cup final win against Watford in 2019 equalled Bury’s biggest winning margin, set in 1903, and also saw the club become the first, and only, side to achieve a domestic treble of Premier League/Carabao Cup/FA Cup.

And just to remind their European rivals of City’s incredible durability, they are now 27 games into the longest unbeaten home run of any English team in Champions League history, having not suffered a defeat at the Etihad since September 2018.

Arsenal and Liverpool will believe they can beat City to the title this season, while Real Madrid and Bayern Munich may back themselves to thwart Guardiola in his attempt to win successive Champions Leagues. But the only team that can really stop City is themselves. The quadruple should be an impossible dream, but Guardiola has turned unthinkable into probable at the Etihad.

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