The fallout from the Premier League charging Manchester City with 115 alleged breaches of its financial rules culminated in a remarkable Pep Guardiola press conference in which, passionate and defiant, he firmly stuck his colours to the City mast, making it abundantly clear he’s now in it for the long term, regardless.
It was in the weeks immediately before that tumultuous Monday of the announcement, just one week ago today, that things were unusually wobbly within the squad. However, Pep’s bloody-minded determination to put things right has now, thanks largely to dark and devious Premier League manoeuvres (and in Gary Neville’s word ‘incompetence’), soared to new heights, if that were even possible.
Yes, it’s only seven days since doubts were being cast that he wouldn’t even see out his contract extension to the end of the 2023/24 season, signalled by yet another defeat at Tottenham which followed unusual point losses against Brentford, Everton and United.
Four defeats after twenty-one Prem games is rare, such is the remarkable standards his team has set in previous years.
Now that is all long forgotten. So, too, the question of how long it will take to integrate Haaland into the well-oiled (dangerous phrase!) Pep machine. As if his 25 Prem goals in 22 matches were not something special to build on.
We all sensed, even before the Aston Villa game, that this Prem fiasco was going to galvanise Pep, his players, and the fans in an unprecedented manner. And it has – exponentially.
Now, a remarkable nine trophies in six years, and fourteen since Sheikh Mansour took over, maybe just a start as we await a verdict that will probably be four years in the making. And, by then, there may well be fifteen or more Pep trophies in the Etihad cabinet.
So, it has most certainly put a rocket up everyone at the club and will, I suspect, continue to do so until the end of the season, making the hunt for three more major trophies even more likely to end in some measure of success. Two, including the Champions League, would be good. All three are great.
The rage that Pep directed at the 19 Angry Men, the CEOs of all the other Prem clubs who, behind their ringleader, the eternally trophy-less Daniel Levy, have campaigned for City’s demise for several years now, was I believe more than well justified.
It was less than three years ago that nine interfering Prem clubs – Burnley, Wolves, Leicester, Newcastle, Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea – wrote to CAS asking them, unbelievably, not to lift City’s European ban while the appeal was still in progress. This was totally out of order, ignored, and now surpassed by these latest attempts by all nineteen to win something – anything – with City out of the way. Dream on.
Envy and jealousy at City scooping up most of the trophies most of the time since Pep’s arrival have shown no bounds. Innocent before being proven guilty doesn’t exist in their limited vocabularies and vengeful minds.
City were overwhelmingly exonerated by a 93-page document that detailed why UEFA were wrong to hand down a Champions League ban. UEFA greatly humiliated themselves in the process.
Now, hopefully, it’s the Premier League’s turn.
Ironically, Chelsea and Manchester United have both spent more on players and salaries since Pep’s arrival. Yet the Londoners have won far fewer trophies and United, rather pathetically, hardly any at all.
A siege mentality has now taken hold throughout the club at every level with Pep Guardiola cast as the True Blue spokesman and steadfast leader – so The Spiteful Nineteen had better be careful what they wish for.