City, together with United, were given dispensation to start the season a week after the rest of the league due to their participation in last season’s European competitions.
The Covid-19 pandemic was still prevalent throughout the country, and the world, so it seemed that at least matches before the end of 2020 would still be played behind closed doors.
City hadn’t added to the squad since buying Nathan Ake and Ferren Torres at the end of the last campaign, and they both received their debuts at Molyneux, with Pep being unable to select seven regular starters due to either injury or positive Covid-19 tests. The team however coped very well and beat Wolves 3-1.
With so many players being unavailable City put out a very inexperienced team in the 3rd Round of the Carabao Cup, containing 5 teenagers and two 20 year olds, with debuts for Zak Steffen and 17 year old striker Liam Dilap, who scored a debut goal to help City dispose of Bournemouth 2-1.
After an encouraging first two games The club and fans were brought down to earth as, despite having 72% possession and 16 attempts at goal, they fell to a disastrous 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester, there were some glaring mistakes by the City defence,
Pep realising the team’s defensive frailties persuaded the board to outlay £61.6M plus addons to bring in 23 year old Portuguese centre half Ruben Dias from Benfica, with Nikolas Otamendi moving the other way as part of the deal.
Another inexperienced team then played at Burnley in the 4th round of the Carabao Cup, with Cole Palmer, another academy star making his debut, and helping City to a 3-0 victory.
The next day City’s Champions League group opponents were drawn, and at the same time Kevin De Bruyne was named UEFA’s European Midfielder of the Year for 2019/20.
Before the international break there was one more round of Premier League games, and City might have been disappointed with a very entertaining 1-1 draw at newly promoted Leeds, putting them 5 points behind champions Liverpool but a day later the scousers were humiliated in a 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa.
two days later the transfer window closed with Alex Garcia moving on a free to Dinamo Bucharest, and Tosin Adarabioyo moved to Fulham for £1.5M.
After the International break City won a tough game against an improving Arsenal 1-0, and the in their first Champions League group game it was another impressive display at The Etihad as they triumphed over Porto 3-1, then at West Ham a few days later it seemed City’s injury worries were gradually starting to improve as Sergio Aguero was named in the starting line up, however he was later withdrawn in the 2nd half with a hamstring injury and he rejoined Jesus, Fernandinho and Mendy on the treatment table. In addition the Blues were only able to come away with one point, drawing 1-1.
The good news was that Laporte and Zinchenko returned to the defence for the Champions League game at Marseille and kept a clean sheet in a great 3-0 victory over the French side, and it was a second clean sheet four days later, as The Blues won 1-0 at Sheffield United in the Premier League.
Another 3-0 victory in The Champions League followed as Olympiakos were beaten 3-0 at The Etihad. And then in the league, Champions Liverpool also visited The Etihad, and in a great game the honours were even, with a 1-1 draw.
After a further International break the City fans were bouyed by the news that Pep had extended his contract from the end of 2021 to 2023, however it wasn’t as good news in the visit to in form Tottenham Hotspur as The Blues were beaten 2-0.
City’s results needed to improve, and they did with four clean sheets on the trot, the first a 1-0 win at Olympiakos in The Champions League, clinched qualification from the group, then the annual 5-0 thrashing of Burnley at home in the League.
Moving into December, City were confirmed group winners in the Champions League with a 0-0 draw in Porto, and then newly promoted Fulham were beaten 2-0 in The Premier League.
City finished unbeaten in the Champions League group section as they beat Marseille 3-0 at The Etihad. But in the Premier League Pep’s team stuttered in a uninspiring 0-0 Manchester derby draw against United at Old Trafford, and then a 1-1 draw at home to struggling West Bromwich Albion.
However in the last two days before Christmas the Blues looked better, with a 1-0 victory at Southampon, and then qualifying for the semi-final of the Carabao Cup, beating Arsenal 4-1 at The Emirates.
Prior to the home Boxing Day clash with Newcastle, Kyle Walker and Jesus tested positive for Covid-19 and would be unavailable until early New Year, and with Sergio Aguero only fit enough to make the bench, City set up with a false number 9 as they had done for many matches already, and in a very professional performance won 2-0 to move within a point of the top four with a game in hand on most teams.
Just two days later City were due to play Everton, but there was a further outbreak of positive Covid-19 tests in Pep’s squad, and so the Premier League decided to postpone the game, and there were now doubts as to whether City’s next game against Chelsea would also go ahead, and so in a season where the matches were coming every three days, the Blues may have to fit in a further three games in to an already cramped schedule.
Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Ferran Torres, Eric Garcia and Tommy Doyle were all unavailable for the game at Stamford Bridge due to Covid-19 however a depleted City side put in a fantastic performance to beat Chelsea 3-1. Unfortunately the the joy of the win, turned to great sadness just two days later, with the news that City’s greatest ever player, the King of The Kippax, Colin Bell had passed away aged 74.
With tributes pouring in for Colin from around the football world, 24 hours later The City side marched out at Old Trafford in the one legged Carabao Cup semi-final at Old Trafford all wearing the iconic number 8 shirt, and there was not a dry eye amongst every City fan watching the emotional minutes silence for ‘The King’. The players didn’t let his memory down either, beating United 2-0 to book a place in April’s final.
There was another emotional minutes silence and tribute to Colin four days later at The Etihad where City made it six wins on the trot beating Birmingham 3-0 in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
In the League, none of the top eight could put in consistent performances and results, except for City, and they went on to make it a maximum 18 points on the trot by beating Brighton 1-0, Crystal Palace 3-0 and Aston Villa 2-0. The only downside was that Kevin de Bruyne suffered a hamstring injury in the Villa game and could be out for four to six weeks.
Back to the FA Cup and The Blues got a scare at Cheltenham in the 4th round, when they went 1-0 down after 59 minutes, but rescued the tie with three goals in the last ten minutes to win 3-1.
Then on 26th January Colin Bell’s funeral took place, and the corterge circled The Etihad in emotional scenes before making it’s way to Hale’s St Peter’s Church. As if in tribute, for the first time in the season City went top of the league, beating West Brom 5-0 at the Hawthorns, leapfrogging United, who were now a point behind with City having a game in hand as we reached the halfway point in the season. It got better just a few days later as Pep’s men beat Sheffield United 1-0 to go three points clear at the top. The form guide for City was going off the chart with 8 league wins on the trot and just one goal conceded in that time.
Another clean sheet followed with a 2-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor.
Then City put up a remarkable display at Anfield to beat Liverpool 4-1 to equal the top flight record of 14 straight wins in all competitions and go five points clear at the top of the Premier League and ten points clear of the Champions.
Pep’s men continued their assault on all four fronts by qualifying for the FA Cup Quarter Finals with a 3-1 victory at Swansea.
Ilkay Gundogan had been putting in, what could only be described as, world class performances since Christmas, and this continued in the next Premier League game at the Etihad as he scored another brace to take his tally to 11 goals in 12 games, as City beat Tottenham 3-0.
City eventually got to play their game in hand and disposed of Everton 3-1 at Goodison Park to smash their own record of consecutive wins in all competitions to 17, and with all the other teams in the top four inconsistent City were now ten points clear of United and Leicester in second and third position respectively with 14 games of the season left.
City continued their ‘perfect’ record in 2021 with a 1-0 league victory at Arsenal and then in the first leg of the first knockout round of the Champions League they beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0, a match that was actually played in Budapest due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Then back in the Premier League they made it 20 wins on the trot in all competitions with a 2-1 victory over fourth place West Ham United.
March started with a further victory as Pep’s side beat Wolves 4-1 at The Etihad to equal a club record of 28 games unbeaten and 21 wins on the trot in all competitions.
Unfortunately it would be Manchester United who would curtail City’s records as they beat City 2-0 in the Derby at The Etihad.
That defeat seemed to drive The Blues on and they moved 17 points clear at the top of The Premier League as they beat Southampton at home 5-2 and then Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage.
And so to the Cup competitions and Pep’s side cruised into the Quarter Finals of the Champions League beating Borussia Monchengladbach 2-0 in the 2nd leg, which was again played in Budapest, due to Covid-19 restrictions. In the FA Cup City face a tough Quarter Final at Everton, however in a very professional performance they beat The Toffees 2-0.
Moving into an International break Pep had banned talk of the ‘holy grail’ that would be the quadruple, however City were certainly in a fantastic position, 14 points clear in the league with most teams having just nine games to play, finalists in the Carabao Cup, Semi-Finalists in the FA Cup and Quarter Finalists in the Champions League, It was certainly going to be a busy and exciting season run in.
With the toughest April ahead, Pep was happy to see all his players return from International duty with a clean bill of health. Then came the news that Sergio Aguero would be leaving City at the end of the season when his contract runs out. The Club announced that the Blues’ all time top scorer would be honoured with a statue to be erected at The Etihad.
And so to a tough Premier League clash at third place Leicester, and yet another great display by The Cityzens as The Foxes were beaten 2-0.
Things got even tougher in the first leg of the Champions League Quarter Final at home to Borussia Dortmund, with City winning 2-1 in a close, but entertaining game.
With the Premier League looking like it was almost won and some difficult cup games coming thick and fast, Pep played, what many fans thought, a slightly weakened side at home to Leeds United and City came unstuck, losing 2-1.
With a very strong team in place for the visit to Borussia Dortmund The Blues stormed into the semi-finals for the first time under Pep, beating the Germans 2-1.
The media was still full of speculation as to whether City could win the Quadruple, however this was all put to rest at Wembley in the Semi-Final of the FA Cup, where in a disappointing display, Pep’s side lost 1-0 to Chelsea.
What followed a day later, no fan in the country could have perceived, an announcement that could have ended football in England as we know it!
Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and City announced they were to join a new, very lucrative, European Super League along with AC Milan, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid, with a further three clubs to join shortly. These 15 founder clubs would be guaranteed entry to this new competition every year with no relegation, basically a ‘closed shop’, and thus making the Premier League none competitive, and virtually destroying the whole football pyramid in England.
The furore that followed the next day was unbelievable, as FIFA, UEFA, fans, players and even the British Government getting involved with preventing the ESL from going ahead. The fans protested with banners erected at the grounds, including City fans at The Etihad. FIFA announced that any players who played in this new competition would be banned from playing for their country in the World Cup and all other competitions, UEFA also were looking to throw out all the teams who were still involved in The Champions League and Europa League this season, even Boris Johnson gave assurances that the government would do everything in their power to stop the ESL from happening despite European Super League chairman Florentino Perez’s defiant stance that nothing could stop it from going ahead as all clubs involved had signed legally binding contracts.
The morning of Tuesday 20th April, less than 48 hours after the bombshell had been announced, Pep was asked in his press conference for his thoughts, he was clearly against it saying “It is not sport if the relationship between the effort and reward doesn’t exist. It is not sport if it doesn’t matter if you lose”.
That night as Chelsea fans protested at Stamford Bridge in their televised game against Brighton, news came through that City had confirmed their intention to pull out of the proposed European Super League. This was the catalyst for other clubs to realise this was a big mistake, and Chelsea were the next club to withdraw. The four ‘cash strapped’ American owned English clubs stayed silent though (quite obviously these were the original instigators for the ESL), however as we woke the next morning all four had announced their withdrawal as well.
That night then, City played what was now a meaningfull game at Villa Park, with The Blues looking to get a step closer to their third Premier League title in four years, and The Villains looking to try and push for a European place. Despite Aston Villa scoring after 21 seconds City put up a brilliant display to win 2-1.
With the government slightly relaxing Covid-19 lockdown rules, the return of fans was to be trialled at the Carabao Cup final, where up to 8,000 fans would be present at Wembley, 2,000 of them would be City fans, and on the day Pep’s side didn’t let them down as they beat Tottenham 1-0 to lift the first trophy of the season, a trophy they had now won four years on the trot.
Perhaps an even bigger game was to come just three days later, The Blues travelled to Paris for the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, where in a classic match, City beat PSG 2-1 to set up what could be an epic second leg a week later. In the mean-time, a much changed side then won 2-0 at Crystal Palace to go within just three points of winning the Premier League title.
Well it certainly was an epic Champions League semi-final 2nd leg, and City made club history by qualifying for the European Champions League final for the first time, by beating PSG 2-0 in Manchester. They would meet Chelsea in the final in Istanbul, however in the league they would meet Chelsea just four days after the semi-final and Pep rested nine players after the efforts against PSG, unfortunately with City still needing three points from their last four games to clinch the title, Chelsea spoilt the party by beating The Blues 2-1.
Four days later City were Champions again, as third place Leicester beat second place Manchester United, and so with three matches to play The Blues had won the Premier League for the third time in the last four years. Amongst Pep’s comments after being crowned Champions were “This was the hardest one. We will always remember this season for the way that we won. I am so proud to be the manager here and of this group of players…. It has been such a hard year for so many people. This one is really for our fans and for Colin Bell and all his family.”
With all eyes on the Champions League, Pep then rested most of his usual first eleven for the trip to Newcastle, and in an entertaining game City won 4-3 to break another record by being unbeaten in the last 23 away games in all competitions.
Due to Covid-19 lockdown measures being implemented in Turkey, UEFA made a decision to move the Champions League Final to Porto and City received 6,000 tickets. In an unprecedented gesture Sheikh Mansour then announced that for those lucky to get tickets he would pay for flights and transfers to the game.
In England the Covid-19 lockdown measures had been eased further, and therefore for City’s last home game of the season, 10,000 fans would be able to attend if they were lucky enough to be drawn from a ballot.
In the penultimate Premier League game of the season a much changed side were beaten 3-2 at Brighton.
And so to the return of the fans back to The Etihad after nearly 16 months away, and despite only 10,000 fans being allowed in the ground, and constant rain, it was still a carnival atmosphere. The team didn’t let them down either beating Everton 5-0, and in a fairy tail end to Sergio Aguero’s ten years at The Etihad, he came on as sub with 30 minutes left to score the last two goals, which gave him the record Premier League goals scored for just one club.
After the final whistle the Premier League trophy was presented to captain Fernandinho, amidst a party on a rain sodden pitch. Then there was an emotional farewell to Sergio.
With the last game of the season in Porto just six days away, the honours continued to rain in for the Citizens:
Ederson won The Golden Glove award, for the second year running with 19 clean sheets.
Ruben Dias was named the Football Writers’ Player of the Year as well as City’s Player of the Year. And Pep was named LMA Manager of The Year.
Unfortunately City’s first appearance in the Champions League final was not to be a successful one and in a disappointing performance Pep’s side lost 1-0 to Chelsea.
It was of course another very successful season with two trophies in the bag and some fantastic displays by the City squad, who ended up with even more awards… Ruben Dias was named Player of the Season, Phil Foden, Young Player of the Year and Pep Guardiola Manager of the Year.
Then in the prestegeous PFA awards Kevin De Bruyne was named Player of the Year for a second year on the trot and Phil Foden Young Player of the Year.
Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia both joined Barcelona with their contracts not being renewed, whilst the majority of the rest of the squad headed off to their international squads to play in the delayed EURO 2020 and Copa America.