This season could still be the “best” in Manchester City’s history, says Gary Neville, despite the club being all-but out of title contention.
City lifted their sixth domestic trophy out of seven with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley on Sunday, but have found themselves off the pace in the Premier League, where they trail leaders Liverpool by 22 points with a game in hand.
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Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, Neville said a first Champions League win – with City leading Real Madrid 2-1 after the first leg of their last-16 tie – would still surpass anything the club has achieved in previous years, including a record 100-point haul to lift the Premier League trophy in 2018.
He said: “It could be their best season if they win the Champions League. What’s happened with UEFA makes them dangerous.
“They’re wounded as a club, maybe they needed that in some ways, over the last few years in the Champions League they’ve always looked like they’re not quite ready but I have to say, I thought that performance at Real Madrid was excellent, with a different level of feeling in it.
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“They’ve built some squad. Guardiola’s record in finals is fantastic, he’s addicted to winning and the mentality they have at the moment is one that’s difficult – they’re not going to win the league this season, but they’ve still got momentum and are winning trophies.
“This won’t give them confidence, they’re already confident, but it’ll make them think ‘we’re still winners’. They’ve dropped off in the league, Liverpool have been absolutely outstanding and they’re going to have to watch the Premier League title be given somewhere else.
“But going back to when I was playing at Manchester United in a very successful era, if you won a trophy in a season where you didn’t win the league, it was still a good season.”
‘Some achievement with eight changes’
It was a new-look City team, near enough, from the one that won in Spain on Wednesday night, with only Rodri, Kyle Walker and Ilkay Gundogan remaining in Guardiola’s starting line-up.
That had little impact though, as Guardiola won a 13th final out of the 14 he has competed in as a manager, with Sergio Aguero and Rodri on target at Wembley.
“The result went as I expected, but how we got there – I thought Manchester City might win more comfortably,” Neville said. “They were the better side, obviously, we always expected that.
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