(Reuters) – By winning their third title in seven seasons since first being backed by the petro-dollars of Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City can justifiably claim to be the outstanding Premier League club of the current decade.
Even more alarming for their rivals, though, after Manchester United’s 1-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion on Sunday sealed City’s triumph is that Pep Guardiola’s latest fabulous creation may only be at the dawn of a potential new dynasty.
Yet, even if City’s season has already been a majestic success, what with a League Cup triumph and winning the Premier League with a record-equalling five matches to spare, a better measure will only come by the end of next season.
For no English champions have successfully defended their Premier League crown since City’s once lordly neighbours United won the title for a third straight season in 2008-09.
That side, guided by Alex Ferguson and featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney in their pomp, completed a remarkable three-year spell, also featuring a Champions League win, another final appearance and a Club World Cup triumph.
This is the deafening level of dominance that the team once famously derided as “noisy neighbours” by Ferguson will now be out to cement after what could still end up as an unprecedented 100-goal, 100-point season.
The last decade, though, suggests back-to-back successes will be no given. Ferguson’s last United triumph in 2012-13 was by 11 points from the then champions City; the following season, under new management, they finished seventh.
Jose Mourinho’s 2015 Chelsea side won the league handsomely but could only finish 10th the following campaign. Last season’s champions, Chelsea, look unlikely to be in the top four this year.
Yet if any team look capable of bucking this trend, it is Guardiola’s latest potential masterpiece, which, remember, is still a work in progress.
He won both La Liga, with Barcelona, and the Bundesliga at Bayern Munich three years in succession, changing attitudes in both the Spanish and German game with the sort of possession-based pass mastery at pace that some believed would be stifled in England. That theory has been wholly debunked.
Certainly, Liverpool’s heroics in both the Champions League and Premier League, swarming all over City for three victories this term, and Manchester United’s 3-2 comeback win at the Etihad which delayed the coronation, dented the aura.
Those performances offered others a blueprint of how to knock City out of their aristocratic stride, yet still this could not hide the extent of their overall dominance.
The dynasty will only be built on European success, though, and after the quarter-final exit to Liverpool, City’s owners, who want a gilded continental powerhouse to match United’s global lustre, will demand it and back those demands with huge funding.
Guardiola’s talent and commitment is the key to this.
City’s fans must have been left with soaring hearts on hearing how the Spaniard, in the second of a three-year deal, had talked of his long-term ambitions to make City’s name resonate more in global terms.
“(Manchester City) does not have a history behind it at the level of titles but it does have the desire to become winners,” he told a South American TV company.
“I do not rule out continuing to lead in 10 years. It will depend how I feel and if they want me.”
Of course, they will want him. Every club does. His imprint in just two seasons has already been immense, vastly improving youthful talent like Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus, none of whom are older than 23.
Key men Fernandinho and David Silva are in their thirties now but much more can be still be expected of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva alongside Kevin de Bruyne, the league’s outstanding player this season.
“We need titles in Europe,” Guardiola concedes. “After what this club has done in the last ten years, in terms of creating facilities and making it bigger, it will happen.
“But you need time. It might be next season or the season after that but it will happen, soon it will happen.”
Guardiola sounded like a man who will be there when it does.
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Christian Radnedge