Manchester City revel in historic first Champions League triumph
It was not a classic Manchester City performance against Italy’s Inter Milan in the Uefa Champions League final. However, the English champions did what needed to be done for victory.
It was far from being a familiarly fluid, flamboyant and free-flowing display from Manchester City as they beat a resilient, but profligate Inter Milan 1–0 to win the Uefa Champions League for the first time in their history.
Spanish midfield anchor Rodri, who usually takes the back seat and pulls the strings behind the scenes – allowing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne (who hobbled off injured in the first half) and Erling Haaland to shine – was the unlikely hero for the Manchester club.
The midfielder’s carefully controlled and curled strike in the 68th minute was enough for the Citizens to claim a famous and historic win in Istanbul. In the process, the English champions also became just the eighth side in European soccer history to clinch a continental treble.
To accompany their Premier League and Champions League titles, Pep Guardiola’s men also beat city rivals Manchester United to claim the FA Cup just over a week ago.
The Citizens were appearing in only their second Champions League final. They were stunned 1–0 by Chelsea in the 2021 decider.
After that heartbreak of two years, Guardiola hinted that they cared very little that they beat Inter while not playing at their optimum.
“The first half we were so anxious. We could not find the free man, John Stones. But it was a question of being patient. I said at halftime ‘last time in Porto [against Chelsea] we were 1–0 down, now it’s 0–0’. We adjusted some things. But you have to be lucky in this competition,” Guardiola said after the game.
“Winning this competition and the treble is so difficult, and that’s why today it’s not important how we did it. It only matters that we did it.”
It’s been a long road to this particular success for City. They clocked a personal Champions League milestone as recently as the 2015/2016 season when they reached the semifinals for the first time in their history.
But between 2017 and 2020, they could not even make it past the quarterfinal stage. Then they bounced back to push all the way to that ill-fated maiden final appearance in 2021.
“We made history. But the thing is that we want more. We have more ambition. This is a dream. We deserve to celebrate because this might not happen again. I’m emotional. This is a dream come true. All these City fans have been waiting 20, 30, 40 years. I’ve been here for four years. They deserve it. We deserve it,” City’s match winner Rodri said.
The crown jewel
When United Arab Emirates politician and businessman Sheikh Mansour bought the club back in the European summer of 2008 and proceeded to spend hundreds of millions of pounds in transfer fees over the subsequent seasons, he had one thing on his mind – European glory.
When Mansour lured the Spanish tactician and obsessive perfectionist Guardiola to Manchester in 2016, he still had the same thing in mind.
After all, in his overflowing trophy cabinet Guardiola possessed two Champions League titles, which he won with his breathtaking Barcelona side in 2009 and 2011.
That elusive maiden Champions League title has now been secured. So European glory has been achieved. Next on the agenda for City and their wealthy owner is continental dominance akin to their reign domestically.
Eyeing European dominance
The Citizens have won five Premier League titles under Guardiola’s guidance. Three of those have come on the trot. The Spaniard is now dreaming of repeating the trick in Europe.
“We are now only 13 [Champions Leagues] behind Real Madrid,” Guardiola joked in his press conference. “If they sleep a little, we can catch them.
“Some teams disappear after winning the Champions League. So, we have to avoid that. But now you can stop asking me about the Champions League.”
With this victory the Spanish coaching powerhouse made history by becoming the only manager with two European trebles after winning one with Barcelona. He now also has three Champions League titles – one less than the most successful manager in the competition’s history, Carlo Ancelotti. DM