Manchester City are 90 minutes away from the glory and trophy that has visited them since the club’s transformation in September 2008.
The Champions League has always been the ultimate destination of the Abu Dhabi-based pecking order from the moment they arrived to shake up the natural order of the Premier League and transform Manchester United club manager Sir Alex Ferguson into qualifier. from “noisy neighbors” to a veritable European superpower.
It was, some would say in typical Manchester City fashion, a Champions League road strewn with bumps, misadventures and bad luck stories, but two superb performances to send dangerous Paris St-Germain 4-1 back to the total mean they will meet either. Chelsea or Real Madrid in the final in Istanbul on May 29.
The final whistle celebrations told the story as a psychological barrier was crossed, with another hurdle to be negotiated before we could claim the Holy Grail.
It all started 13 years ago, when City’s new owners gave notice of their intention to pinch Brazilian superstar Robinho under Chelsea’s nose for £ 32.5million, attempted to rob Dimitar Berbatov from Manchester United and have even threatened to make their city rivals – ironic or not – an offer they couldn’t refuse for Cristiano Ronaldo. They may not have succeeded, but the ambition was limitless.
It was the day the landscape of English football changed.
There has been a lot of discussion. And nights like the one they can now contemplate in Istanbul, that’s where they wanted to take Manchester City from day one.
The ambition came to fruition when they actually built a house at Etihad Stadium while waiting for their perfect resident in their ideal manager. They set the pieces in place with former Barcelona duo Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano ahead of their final coup, the nomination of Pep Guardiola, who had won the Champions League twice at Camp Nou.
Guardiola has not turned out to be the silver bullet in Europe despite his spectacular work at national level. A third Premier League title will be confirmed if they beat Chelsea on Saturday, a fourth straight League Cup has been won against Tottenham and they also won the FA Cup in 2019.
The inability to clinch the Champions League has been the only cloud on the horizon, with Guardiola City reaching the last 16 in 2016-17 but dropping in the quarter-finals for the past three seasons.
It was Guardiola’s first Champions League semi-final with City, but it was a sign of maturity, development, quality and the team ethic that he encouraged her to have. been negotiated in such relative comfort.
He was quick to pay tribute to those who made their contribution – and then left the building – on this occasion, such as Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and David Silva. Sergio Aguero, who made a late appearance as a substitute, now has the chance to end his record-breaking Manchester City career in the brightest way.
PSG lost to Bayern Munich in the Champions League final last season and having ousted the holders in the quarter-finals they believed they were on course to make up for the disappointment of last season. While they will regret the absence of the injured Kylian Mbappe in Manchester, on two legs City was just too good for them.
City will be favorites for the final after an exceptional campaign that included seven consecutive wins in this competition, the first English club to achieve this feat.
The only sadness was that the fans who have been through so much over the years were not there to savor this defining moment in Manchester City history.
These supporters steadfastly supported the club in the bad days of English football’s third tier and suffered from Manchester United’s years of domination as downtrodden neighbors before emerging into the light amid the steady arrival of silverware to the over the past decade.
City’s last victory away from the national stage was a triumph in the European Cup Winners’ Cup final against Polish club Gornik Zabrze in a Vienna Flood in 1970. Now their luck has returned 51 years later.
With the Premier League title champagne on the ice, the League Cup won and a Champions League final to prepare, these are good days to be a Manchester City fan.
City’s entire performance in beating PSG was a monument to what Guardiola has built. His players rebounded from being overpowered by Liverpool in last season’s title race to reclaim their crown with consummate ease, while mounting their most successful assault on the trophy that proved extremely elusive.
A lot has been done, rightly, of City’s offensive brilliance and it has been shown here with the mercurial and now hugely influential Riyad Mahrez scoring twice, Phil Foden simply superb in all areas and Kevin de Bruyne probing with great effect.
If anything, however, it was City’s discipline and the outright ‘they won’t pass’ attitude on defense – an area that has been an Achilles heel in the past in this competition – which was arguably more impressive.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is an unrecognized figure, but he has been flawless here in crucially blocking Neymar while Ruben Dias, a transforming signatory in central defense, has done the same with Ander Herrera. These blocks were celebrated as goals – maybe because they were almost as good as goals.
Fernandinho, captain on his 36th birthday, was the sentinel in the midfield, his presence so disturbing and persistent – and, yes, irritating – that Angel di Maria cracked with an insane stamp on the Brazilian who brought a red card.
Manchester City’s easy-to-watch elegance won so much praise, but it was a night when they dug deep into their reserves of resilience – they were determined that the mistakes and slips that had caused them the grief of the Champions League before would not be revisited. .
It was a complete performance that fully deserved the reward of the club’s first appearance in Europe’s greatest football match. If they play like that, Chelsea or Real Madrid will have to produce something special to beat them.
And if Manchester City wins, it will be the fulfillment of a dream that was the distant sight in September 2008.