Unlike the interminable post-season that defines professional sports in America, European soccer is a much more regular season-centric process. There are no divisions in each country; merely a “table” where those in the upper echelons have the opportunity to compete in cross-continental divisions such as FA Cup and the Champions League, and those who avoid the bottom rungs of the “ladder” get the chance to continue that pursuit.
But occasionally, there is a reason to pay attention to what happens in the world of football/soccer beyond the end of the regular season, and this year provided one of them. Because at the same time that U.S. horse racing reached one of its most anticlimatic conclusions with a meaningless and poorly covered Belmont Stakes that produced the sport’s third different winner of a Triple Crown race, over on the continent Manchester City was providing a far more compelling storyline that resulted in a rare and “brilliant!” result, as BBC Sport’s Phil McNulty reported:
After winning the Premier League and FA Cup, City emulated Manchester United’s triple trophy haul in 1999 as they became only the second English club to achieve the feat after Rodri’s crisp 68th-minute strike settled an attritional final.
Guardiola’s all-conquering side were never at their best against a brilliantly organised Inter and had to cope with the loss of Kevin de Bruyne to injury in the first half.
But the massed ranks of City fans inside Ataturk Stadium did not care about that as they joyously celebrated the greatest night – and season – in the club’s history.
I’ve been told by Brits that the rivalry between Manchester’s two teams is as deep and contrasted by caste memberships and centuries-old allegiances in a manner akin to those of the Mets and Yankees or USC and UCLA. And here’s where THE SPORTING NEWS’ Dom Farrell provides some contextL
Manchester City’s modern dominance of the Premier League has continued with Pep Guardiola’s men scooping another title in 2022/23. Man City have nine English top-flight titles with their latest seeing them match Everton’s total all-time.
However, the Citizens still have a ways to go before they catch up to Manchester United and Liverpool.
As someone who tends to favor the underdog or has recency biases, it’s no wonder I was as captivated by what went down in Istanbul yesterday as anyone. Besides, I’m a fan of Man City’s sister club, NYCFC, and they won the MLS title in 2021, where as their rival Red Bulls are struggling despite their command of the fan base of suburban New Jersey.
And Man City knows exactly how much completing this triple, as United once did, is even more important to the local and global perception of success, as McNulty continued:
Guardiola said, whether it was fair or not, that his time at Manchester City would be judged on whether he was able to bring the Champions League to the club. Now that judgement can be made.
This was an evening when only the result mattered to City, not the manner in which their greatest victory was achieved.
This was not a win secured with the dazzling style and creation that is usually their hallmark. In fact for long periods it was a scrappy, sloppy performance in the face of a well-drilled Inter side who were right in this Champions League Final until the whistle went.
And considering the context in which City is judged, in a manner akin to how many of us are judging the PGA, there’s an addiitonal level of intrigue attached to this win:
It is a simple fact that many outside the Abu Dhabi-owned club will always view their triumph through the prism of the charges of 115 financial breaches brought against them by the Premier League, charges they fiercely deny.
For City’s owners, with Sheikh Mansour attending only his second game since taking control in 2008, this was the night they have planned for and the one when they finally claimed that holy grail.
There’s way too much whining and complaining, both in sports and the world at large, of late. Even I can only get so riled up at sportswashing and gender identification controversies at a time when the South Florida teams are each a game away from elimination and the 2023 Mets are rapidly turning into the 1992 version.
So, please, celebrate these post-season wins , despite the reality check that they may just be pyrrhic victories for City. And allow me to lead that celebration?