Man City FA Cup win ‘shows hallmark of true greatness’
Manchester City's historic FA Cup final win was almost swamped by the glowing list of statistics piling up around them - but nothing can disguise the scale of this achievement and the brilliance of Pep Guardiola's team.
The club once loftily dismissed as "noisy neighbours" by then-Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed they now exert a domestic dominance that speaks eloquently on their behalf with a crushing, brutal 6-0 dismissal of Watford in the final at Wembley.
It completed a domestic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup - something never before achieved in the English men's game.
This may have been a victory lap completed with embarrassing ease, with early Watford body blows parried in comfort before a form of footballing torture ensued, but this was arguably the greatest day in City's history as this treble was won ruthlessly, spectacularly.
If Watford thought City's Premier League title triumph, secured six days earlier after a mentally and physically taxing season-long battle with Liverpool, would take the edge off the appetite for success that consumes Guardiola and his players, they were swiftly disabused of the notion.
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Guardiola insists winning is "addictive".
All the signs are City, in their current form and with further development to come, will satisfy this craving for years to come.
The statistics say everything about this team, their manager and the powerhouse that has been assembled, and will continue to be built, at Etihad Stadium.
The 6-0 victory margin equalled the biggest in the FA Cup final - set when Bury beat Derby County in 1903.
Yet this was the eighth time City have scored six or more goals this season, including two sevens and one nine - against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup.
City are the first English side to achieve 50 wins in all competitions in a single season and only the fourth team to win both major domestic cup competitions in the same campaign.
This latest triumph was achieved with the hallmark of true greatness, cold-blooded efficiency under a silk cover as Watford, who effectively collapsed after David Silva gave City a 26th-minute lead, were taken apart piece by piece.
As City celebrated this outstanding season amid post-match tickertape and pyrotechnics, a revealing scene played out, one that was symbolic of what drives Guardiola and those who play under him.
Most coaches would have basked in this glory - and why not? - and yet Guardiola was in animated tic-tac, arm-waving discussion with Raheem Sterling, fiercely explaining some tactical point he felt must be addressed.
Not in August. Now. Instantly - moments after the history books had been re-written.
The natural reaction may have been to suggest, politely of course, that Guardiola might just give it a rest - but if this 90 minutes demonstrated one thing, it is that City and their manager never rest.
As a contest, this was over and the sky blue ribbons could be tied to the FA Cup once substitute Kevin de Bruyne made in 3-0 after 61 minutes - but this did not stop City turning this into a harrowing experience for Javi Gracia and Watford's players.
If there can be a battering with brushstrokes, this was it. Watford were virtually pleading for the merciful release of referee Kevin Friend's final whistle.
Hornets president and fanatical lifelong supporter Sir Elton John, a tearful spectator at their 2-0 loss to Everton in the 1984 final, was in Copenhagen on his farewell world tour - and perhaps it was for the best because this was torment for everyone associated with the club.
It continued until the final seconds, when substitute John Stones was only denied a seventh goal - which would have put City out on their own as record winners in an FA Cup final - by the outstretched leg of Watford keeper Heurelho Gomes and the woodwork.
This is City. Relentless. Remorseless.
Liverpool discovered this despite their magnificent Premier League season. Watford experienced it here.
It has been a mixed week for City as their Premier League win was swiftly followed by their referral to Uefa's financial control body adjudicatory chamber - although the club will fight any suggestion they have broken Financial Fair Play rules, insisting they have "irrefutable evidence" to support their case.
This, however, was a performance to savour and a graphic illustration of all that is good about them, delivered with the club's greatest goalscorer Sergio Aguero on the bench, where he was joined by names such as De Bruyne, Stones and Leroy Sane.
The debate will continue about just how great this team is and can become, although captain Vincent Kompany believes their status is beyond question.
Kompany, the 33-year-old Belgian who has led City as they have gorged on success and will have his own future at the club clarified shortly, has no doubts. "It's the best team in the world for me," he said. "To set such a high standard for so long - not just for one year but for two years running now."
There are blots on the landscape, with the absence of a Champions League title being the largest.
It is one setback in City's CV this season that they fell so painfully, dramatically at the quarter-final stage to Tottenham and will be absent from the all-Premier League final between their conquerors and Liverpool in Madrid on 1 June.
And the completists, certainly those who count Manchester United supporters among their number, will suggest City have still fallen short of "the perfect treble" of league, FA Cup and Champions League that they achieved under Ferguson in 1999.
City's feat may lurk slightly under the radar in comparison but there is plenty of time to achieve that, certainly with the fierce Guardiola at the helm.
The league and FA Cup double has only been won by seven clubs, with Arsenal and Manchester United winning it three times. City added their name to be the eighth and to add the extra layer of the EFL Cup proved this team deserves to rank among the true greats of the English game.
And the ominous prospect for City's rivals who hope to topple them from their domestic perch is that Guardiola will not consider his work at Etihad Stadium done.
For now, though, this was the picture-perfect ending to a magnificent season for Manchester City.