Gone in 69 minutes – back in 331 seconds!

The time stamp of 93:20 is etched indelibly into Manchester City’s history – seared into the psyche of every City fan forever and a day – never to be erased.

Those four digits personify the most momentous single event of the Premier League era, but fast forward ten years from ‘Aguerooo’ and there’s another batch of numbers which will resonate long in the memory.

Not quite the Aguerooo Moment, but not far behind.

A combination of 75:11, 77:44 and 80:47 unlocked a scene of pending catastrophe, before transforming it into a cacophony of unbridled joy and ecstasy as City did what City do, albeit a decade apart.

Sergio Aguero’s title winner against QPR in 2012 cannot be surpassed – it just can’t, it’s not up for debate – but Ilkay Gundogan’s brace and Rodri’s perfectly placed equaliser to overhaul Aston Villa’s two goal advantage, came pretty damn close in 2022.

Rodri has been immense for City and his perfectly placed equaliser came at the perfect time.

Grown men were once again reduced to tears just as they had been ten years beforehand, with even Pep Guardiola weeping joyfully at the final whistle. The fans had been here before. Perversely, this was Pep’s ‘Aguerooo’ equivalent. He’d won Premier League titles with hauls of 100 points, 98 points and here on 93 points, but never before from such a perilous position.

We Are The Champions!

First he’d managed The Centurions in 2017/18. Then came The Fourmidables in 2018/19 – the only English team ever to win a domestic treble, or quad if you want to throw in the Community Shield. It’s a feat never accorded due recognition simply because it was City. Somehow, victory on May 22nd 2022 – to paraphrase a pretentious marketing slogan – meant more!

Pep experienced his own version of the Aguerooo Moment when his City side came back from 2-0 down to a title clinching 3-2 victory.

It was beyond the Merseyside media mafia’s moistest dreams to see Villa, managed by Steven Gerrard, helping Liverpool snatch the title, aided and abetted by a superbly executed Philippe Coutinho strike at the Etihad.

Déjà vu and the spectre of ‘Typical City’ were collaborating in the stuff of nightmares for Guardiola and City. Matt Cash headed Villa into the lead before the ex-Liverpool playmaker – freshly signed from Barcelona – made it 2-0 in the 69th minute.

Cash in time as Villa took the lead at the Etihad.

The inevitable comparisons with QPR’s goals from Djibril Cisse and Jamie Mackie gate-crashed the thought processes of City fans who’d witnessed the last day dramatics of 2012. This time it was worse. City had to score three times – not just twice – to somehow wrestle back their title destiny.

Wolves offered an unlikely lifeline as they continued to hold Liverpool 1-1 at Anfield, but very few in sky blue believed they could stand firm for the full 90+ minutes.

Things didn’t go to plan in the first half, but it all came right for Fernandinho in the end for a fitting send off after nine glorious years at City.

Pep hadn’t called it right with a starting XI featuring the departing 37-year old Fernandinho at centre back. He made good on it with three second half substitutions which transformed City’s fortunes, delivering a fourth Premier League title in five seasons for the Catalan genius.

Oleks Zinchenko – aka ‘Little Kev’ – played the finest 45 minutes of his City career, bringing balance down the left flank, complete with an assist for Rodri’s equaliser. Raheem Sterling replaced the largely ineffective Riyad Mahrez, sparking the comeback with right wing wizardry and a delicious cross for Gundogan’s bullet headed strike at the back post.

‘Little Kev’ Oleksandr Zinchenko played the most inspired 45 minutes of his City career as he became a four time Premier League Champion.

The subject of media transfer speculation in the run up to the season finale, ‘Silky Ilkay’ was the hero of the day with two goals in five minutes. Gundo set the gold standard after Silva was subbed.

His innate capacity for being in the right place at the right time drew warm praise from Pep after the final whistle and, lest there be any doubt about what represents the right place for Gundo next season, it has to be the Etihad.

Right place, right time – Gundogan was the City hero against Villa.

He’ll be 32-years old in October and in the last year of his contract, but any premature departure makes no sense. Better for all concerned that he stays until summer 2023 and both Ilkay and the club assess the situation.

Gundo’s tap-in winner from a Kevin De Bruyne assist, rounded off a 331-second goal blitz which ultimately ensured City retained their Premier League crown.

KDB provided one of the most important assists of his career as he threaded an exquisite pass through for Gundogan’s second and City’s third goal.

Compare and contrast that timeframe with the 330-minutes played by Jurgen Klopp’s ‘mentality monster media darlings’, and his team’s failure to score in open play during the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Champions League finals.

Yes, trophies are won in penalty shootouts, but it hardly qualifies the winners to be labelled the ‘Greatest English Team of All-time’.

Fair to say football is indeed a funny old game.

‘Our Jack’ won his first Premier League title at the first time of asking with City with the prospect of plenty more to come.

For the past two Premier League winning campaigns Pep has deployed a false No 9 formation with no conventional striker. It didn’t stop the goals flowing.

Gundogan’s winner was the 99th in the PL and City’s 150th in all competitions, making them the highest scorers across Europe’s top five leagues. Liverpool hit 147, Bayern Munich 143, Chelsea 122, Real Madrid 119 (sadly six came against City, but thankfully one was against Liverpool) and PSG – Mbappe, Messi, Neymar et al chipping in with 112.

So if it ain’t broke do you need to fix it?

Reflecting on another glorious Premier League campaign! Pep has now led his team to four out of the last five PL titles.

The answer is a resounding ‘yes’, with the pending arrivals of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez for a combined transfer fee of circa £67m.

To put that into context that’s £30.5m less than Chelsea splashed out to sign Romelu Lukaku from Inter Milan, and £6m shy of what Manchester United paid Borussia Dortmund for Jadon Sancho last summer.

Goal celebrations aplenty as City struck 99 times in the Premier League and 150 times overall during 2021/22.

City are no different from any club who have designs on the game’s highest honours – they spend when necessary, but under Guardiola especially, they spend wisely.

Of course there are ignoramuses who choose to ignore the achievements of the City Football Academy and the fact they have produced champions and cup winners across a multitude of age ranges this season namely; PL2, U18s, U17s & U16s.

Bernardo Silva has been absolute gold this season with a personal record goals haul. Every City fan will be hoping his wanderlust has been banished and he’s once again settled at the Etihad.

Phil Foden is far from being the only truly home-grown graduate. Cole Palmer is destined to be the next ‘star’ to step up and there’s all manner of reasons to believe the likes of James McAtee, Conrad Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Samuel Edozie, Oscar Bobb, Liam Delap, Kayky, Romeo Lavia and Joshua Wilson-Esbrand could all make positive first team contributions next season.

The City hierarchy are determined to keep City on the road to continuous improvement and success.

The Qatar World Cup will make 2022/23 a season like no other, with FIFA’s corrupt showpiece going ahead in November and December. The strength and depth of PL squads will be tested like never before.

It’s well documented that Guardiola prefers working with a comparatively small nucleus of players – usually 17 to 18 – rather than taking full advantage of a 25-man senior squad, but the extraordinary demands of next season could see that change.

Top scorers – Raheem has scored more goals under Pep than any other player in the past six seasons, whereas Riyad was City’s top marksman in 2021/22. Will they be at the Etihad in 2022/23?

This summer could see higher than usual levels of transfer activity at the Etihad with Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus – along with Gundogan – entering the final year on their contracts. It’s virtually inevitable one or more will leave, be it at the players or the club’s behest.

Sterling has the most PL appearances under Pep (194), Fernandinho (165), Jesus (159) and Gundogan (157) – so there’s the potential for a glut of talent and experience to all go at once.

Gundogan grabbed the glory but it was sterling wing play from Raheem that sparked the comeback.

Despite his detractors, Sterling is City’s top PL scorer under Pep with 85, three more than Aguero, with Jesus next best on 58. And who’d have thought Mahrez would finish as this season’s leading marksman with 24 in all competitions? Could this transfer window be one of comparative revolution rather than evolution?

Farewell Fernandinho, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege.

Speculation on prospective incomings is rife. Kalvin Phillips of Leeds is widely tipped as a replacement for Fernandinho, with Matheus Nunes, Sporting Lisbon’s promising Brazilian-born Portuguese international midfielder, also on the radar.

Brighton’s Marc Cucurella is viewed as a viable conventional left back option. The naturally right-footed Joao Cancelo has excelled on the left flank, and converted midfielder, Oleks Zinchenko has performed manfully when called upon, but for far too long it’s been perceived as City’s primary defensive weakness.

Fireworks, drama and goals galore at the Etihad for City’s grand finale and a nigh on 93:20 re-run!

That said, Cancelo has been outstanding for long periods in a stellar season and ‘Little Kev’ has captured the hearts of many, as he wrestles with the emotional turmoil of the horrors being inflicted upon his Ukrainian homeland.

Irrespective of the outcome of Benjamin Mendy’s upcoming court case, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll play for City again, if only on sporting grounds alone. His injuries have meant he’s nothing like the player he was when signed from Monaco. The French full back is one of the few acquisitions that haven’t worked out during Pep’s reign.

Smokin’ – Pep has set the Premier League alight with his brand of football and it’s proving a bit of a drag for City’s opponents.

Ferran Soriano, City’s CEO, has recently been quoted saying he wants Pep to remain at the Etihad for the rest of his career. There’s few, if any, dissenting voices in sky blue. A contract extension beyond 2023 is almost a given – you’d have to believe part of City’s attraction for Haaland was to work with, and develop under, Pep.

His achievements and statistics in the Premier League are nothing short of astonishing. He has the best points-per-game record of any manager who’s taken charge of 100+ games, at a rate of 2.35 per match. His win percentage is 74.12% with 169 victories in 228 games. His teams have amassed 536 points, scoring 565 goals (also hitting the ‘woodwork’ 135 times) and conceding just 182 (but also registering 107 clean sheets) in the process.

We have lift off!

Unsurprisingly City had the highest average possession per game at 68% in 2021/22 of any team. Much more of an eye opener was City’s set-piece domination. Excluding penalties (something of a sore point at times) City scored 22 times from corners and free kicks – the best in the PL. City also topped the table for goals conceded from set-play – just one in 38 games.

Sub-way scenes of delight.

Having won four out of five of the last Premier League titles, City are undoubtedly the dominant force in English football but Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, along with Pep, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain know there is more – so much more – still to achieve.

Speaking in his now traditional end of season address, Khaldoon acknowledged the intense rivalry with Liverpool, where both teams have raised the bar ever higher. He said: “We’ve made each other better in an era where the quality of the league is the best in the world and continuously improving.

The best Chairman and Manager in world football.

“We won the league on the Sunday, but within hours the conversation was about next season and how we can improve the team. Whilst our mindset was celebratory, we immediately flicked to the next page and how to stay competitive, improve and strengthen the team?”

Khaldoon waxed lyrical about the capture of both Haaland and Alvarez and promised more signings before the big kick off in August.

More than a slogan, it’s a battle cry that City live up to when Premier League titles are on the line.

Time waits for no man and Manchester City aren’t wasting time in continuing to create the best of times for City fans, whether it be 93:20, 75:11, 77:44 or 80:47.

By David Walker

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu

22 Comments

  1. May 30, 2022  8:41 pm by Paul keys Reply

    Awesome piece David the write up ref Aguero goal and 10 years later how it played out again, made me emotional and the follow up made me so optimistic for our coming season and even those to follow. That's the mark of a great writer my friend, to capture and "move" the reader. Job well done 🍻👍 CTID

    • May 30, 2022  8:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks PK, hope the game, the outcome and the blog helped during some difficult times. The future is bright with sky blue horizons beckoning.

  2. May 30, 2022  8:47 pm by Tracie Wilson Reply

    This write up is beyond amazing 💙
    Emotional and very resounding
    Thank you 🙏🏻

    • May 30, 2022  8:52 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thank you for reading and your generous feedback.

  3. May 30, 2022  8:47 pm by Doug Henshaw Reply

    All week I had been telling anyone that would listen we got this no problem we will beat Villa easily. Me and my big mouth was I so wrong typical City returned to put us all in heart attack territory one more time. Couldn't believe what I was watching as we seemed to collapse my phone was going as my Liverpool loving pals informing me of what I had said earlier and how they were going to snatch the title from us. But what a comeback absolutely brilliant I was in by myself watching good job as the language wasn't good lol. From the first to the third goal we were superb, at the final whistle I was on my phone to my Liverpool loving pals lol. Listing to the chairman today seems more players to come which is good as the other teams will be in the market no doubt. Sad to see another great leave us best wishes to Fernandinho for the future.Once again another masterpiece from your pen my friend, thank you so much.

    • May 30, 2022  8:55 pm by David Walker Reply

      I was beginning to doubt us as the 75 minute approached - unlike Khaldoon it would appear! What a comeback. What a team. It's difficult to comprehend what may yet await us if Pep is committed to us long term and new signings of the calibre of Haaland and I suspect Alvarz. Thanks for your feedback Doug.

  4. May 30, 2022  8:51 pm by Martyn Hansen Reply

    Sublime summary. Let’s hope that the Mariners add to your joy this weekend.

    • May 30, 2022  8:57 pm by David Walker Reply

      Thanks fella, that's high praise from you and, yes, a fish treat at the London Stadium will go down a treat.

  5. May 30, 2022  9:02 pm by Steve Barker Reply

    Awesome piece this makes great reading, Man City are making history and invited us all along for the ride.
    I will never forget the sound in the stadium when Gundo got the 3rd it was painful but so enjoyable. Signings are already on their way no one drives Man City to improve more than Man City from Pep and Khaldhoon every player through out the club of all ages and of course the fans I share the joys and less often sorrows with every week.
    Next year could be something special.

    • May 30, 2022  9:27 pm by David Walker Reply

      We are indeed living in exalted times and to think there could be even better to come - WOW! Thanks mate.

  6. May 30, 2022  9:21 pm by Superfun Happy Slide Reply

    Wonderful concluding piece to the season, David. It's been a pleasure following the City season through your content.

    Re: Sterling and his potential move.

    I'm not sure where he would land if LaLiga and Spain's more welcoming weather was his choice destination. With the second half of the table having their revenues impacted significantly by Covid (according to Sid Lowe and the ESPN+ folks), that leaves the big clubs in the top four. RM and Barca are set at striker. Sevilla doesn't historically spend money. And the dark arts at Atletico seem a bad fit for a player like Raheem. Maybe Valencia, as they try to re-establish their place in the domestic league? And everyone says that the cash just isn't availible in Serie A. I'd rather the man stays a blue and he just feeds Haaland, the way he fed Gundo, all day long. I find his pace absolutely intoxicating, even when he's not scoring. For entertainment alone, just one more season of Raheem!

    • May 30, 2022  9:34 pm by David Walker Reply

      If I was a betting man I'd think Real Madrid was a possible destination if Raheem wants to realise his Spanish dream. They missed out on Mbappe and Haaland so they obviously do have the required budget for Sterling's services. With one year left on his City deal he either needs to extend his contract or move on this summer. A realistic fee could be circa £60m. City cannot afford the indulgence of a player wanting to run his contract down, albeit would be Sterling's right to do so. People forget he is ostensibly a wide man and not a central striker and he might thrive off a conventional No 9 such as Haaland. I just wonder if things have run their course with City and the player and a parting of ways this summer might be amicable and mutually agreeable? Thanks for your comments.

  7. May 30, 2022  9:36 pm by peter lynch Reply

    Quality read David, we did it!!!!

    • May 30, 2022  9:37 pm by David Walker Reply

      We absolutely bloody did! Thanks fella.

  8. May 30, 2022  10:07 pm by Pete Reply

    Nice read Dave, as usual agree with all. Re movement out...hopefully Mahrez for £m's on the back of his goal scoring exploits this season. Sterling for me is NOT a main striker but his stats for us show he thrives with one. Figures diminished since Aguero's demise. I do get fed up of the abuse he receives for missing chances I feel I could score. He provides so much more.
    Just Mahrez out for me and he can take his ridiculous invisible Man song with him

    • May 31, 2022  9:12 am by David Walker Reply

      More transfer business than usual this summer and that's with Haaland and Alvarez already signed up. Phillips and Cucurella seem to be the replacements for Fernandinho and Mendy, whereas Nunes looks like he could be a steal at circa £25m from Sporting Lisbon. There seems to be some chatter about AC Milan's Rafael Leao but whether that amounts to much remains to be seen. I agree with you on Sterling - yes, he's missed some sitters and can be incredibly frustrating at times, but he's not an out and out striker. As you say, his best seasons were playing alongside Aguero. Whether he wants, or will get the opportunity, to do likewise with Haaland remains to be seen. I think Jesus will elect to go but I have no idea of Mahrez's situation. Next season should also see Cole Palmer making greater and more regular inroads into the matchday squads. Thanks fella.

  9. May 30, 2022  11:00 pm by Pete Bacon Reply

    Great piece David, and some wonderful photos too. Undoubtedly, it's going to be an interesting summer in the transfer market. We will start the new campaign even stronger than the one just finished, and hopefully FIFA's nonsense jamboree at the end of the year will not deflect us too much from winning the big prizes at seasons end.

    I had a little smile this morning whilst following a van through Sale. I stopped behind it at traffic lights, and in a corner of one of the rear doors in numerics not more than a couple of inches high was '93:20'. Nothing else, just those four numbers that are indelibly etched into every City (and probably United's too) fans' memory.

    • May 31, 2022  9:05 am by David Walker Reply

      The numbers speak for themselves. Cheers Pete.

  10. May 30, 2022  11:18 pm by Trev Makings Reply

    Superb piece David. Great end to the season too. Another stressful one, but we’re on the right side of more photo finishes, than ever

    • May 31, 2022  9:04 am by David Walker Reply

      Absolutely the ends justified the means, it just doesn't always feel that way when you're on the journey, before transitioning from pending catastrophe to unbridled ecstasy. Thanks for your kind comments.

  11. May 31, 2022  8:55 am by Fred Nelson Reply

    Fantastic piece, David. Brought all of the final day emotions flooding back once again. Has a City future ever looked brighter? Not in my lifetime 😀
    Thank you for all of your superb writing throughout the season 👏💙

    • May 31, 2022  9:02 am by David Walker Reply

      Pep, Khaldoon, KDB, Bernardo, Haaland incoming, Foden flourishing and so much more - thank goodness this is all happening in our lifetime. We live in troubled times, but a veritable football paradise. Thanks for lending me your eyes this season Fred and your generous feedback.

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