Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have smashed all manner of records en route to winning the 2017/18 Premier League title.
One way to look at City’s accomplishments is that the former Barcelona manager has achieved feats within two years that Sir Alex Ferguson was unable to muster in 20 Premier League seasons.
Why has Guardiola been able to etch this City side into the history books in a way Ferguson’s United seldom managed; certainly not breaking so many records – most points, most wins, most goals – all within one campaign?
One argument is that the standard of the Premier League has decreased in recent seasons. This may seem contrary as the top flight’s middle class has never been richer or better stocked with internationals but there is weight in the argument.
Fergie’s United used to win games on aura alone, but so do City, and there is a pragmatism within the top flight now that ensures avoiding a morale-busting thrashing at the hands of Guardiola’s men is seen as something to be proud of.
Many mid-table sides have gone in pursuit of greater flair, which is not exactly conducive to putting up strong resistance in the face of a long afternoon trying to bloody the nose of a rampant side.
However, the overall quality of player has gone up – each team now has players who can cause damage – so it likely runs deeper than that.
There is also an argument to suggest that Ferguson’s style of play left the door open to a greater extent than even Guardiola’s aggressive brand of football does.
One word that former United stalwart Gary Neville mentions constantly when talking about the club’s traditions under Ferguson is ‘risk’.
That left the door open for the odd aberration when the balance between risk, reward and slickness of performance was slightly out, undermining any hopes of churning out a machine-like season in the manner City have produced this time around.
Yet, there is one, more practical reason behind Ferguson’s comparative ‘failing’. City have been able to focus squarely on the Premier League since their elimination from the Champions League at the hands of eventual finalists Liverpool in early April.
In truth, if the prospect of a Champions League and Premier League double was still on the cards, City would not have been so hell-bent on breaking records, which are great but pale in comparison to trophies.
Ferguson’s greatest title winning teams, especially in 1999, 2007, 2008 and 2009 were generally fighting for multiple honours towards the sharp end of the season.
Around the turn of the millennium represented United’s best opportunity to set an unassailable record; it is at that period where the difference in desire to set the record under even the notoriously driven Ferguson and the obsessive Guardiola becomes clear.
Guardiola also has experience of maintaining standards throughout title processions, garnered and honed throughout his time with Bayern Munich but that should not diminish his achievement, unmatched by the man who is undisputedly the greatest manager of the Premier League era.