City set for a blast

A CITY cynic might say: "Typical United! They spoil our party and then hand us the prize when we're not looking." Welcome to Manchester.

If that's a niggardly-neighbour wrap of the previous week, there is a much wider significance.

City's immediate crowning as Premier League champions reaffirms that those three defeats amounted to a blip and not a derailment. And instead of a sabbatical, all Pep Guardiola needed was a round of golf.

He will be well aware of the portents of being out on a Cheshire course when the deal was sealed. For that is where, 25 years ago, Alex Ferguson found himself when a club member came rushing across a fairway with the news that United had clinched the title to end their 26-year drought.

Sunday's loss to West Brom was a shock, but their performance suggests the gap between the two Manchester rivals is every bit as wide as 16 points suggests. It's amazing what dodgy refereeing and bad luck can do and, yes, it was United's turn to be denied a pen yesterday.

So congratulations to Pep for landing a trophy that, he reckons, is harder to win than the Champions League. Old Big Ears will still be there next year and if he learns as much from this season as he did from the last one, City will surely be serious contenders.

It is almost a decade since City were transformed by the Abu Dhabi billions. Back then, chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak uttered these prophetic words: "I think we have a dynasty in the making. The next 10 years there's going to be a tremendous period for Manchester City and for us. I think we're going to have a blast doing it."

Well, they have not disappointed. Three Premier League titles, three League Cups and one FA Cup is a decent enough haul given added lustre by the manner in which it has been achieved.

Even under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, they played attractive, stylish football driven by the power of Yaya Toure and magic of David Silva. Under Pep, marks for artistic impression have gone up several notches.

But to fulfil the ambitions of his paymasters, it is Europe that he has to conquer with City, a prize that has eluded him since his peerless Barcelona team outclassed United at Wembley in 2011.

That was peak Pep and there have been doubts as to whether he can reach those dizzy heights again. But this season represents the establishment of a base camp that looks in need of just a couple more quality additions to make it.

Indeed after this weekend, you'd say that City are an awful lot closer to the summit than United (or Spurs for that matter). Several individual performances against West Brom were a disgrace – and it's not just this column that thought so.

Paul Pogba was once again the headline act in going from hero to leading zero and getting hooked! He deserves a slap much harder than the one he gave the ball in that shameful attempt to find the net.

From his cameo of last week, he's back in Instagram mode and Jose Mourinho looked less than impressed by the Hand of Pog. Maybe Mino Raiola should offer him to the NBA!

With only David de Gea looking anywhere near like a United player and youngsters yet again demoted to the bench, there was no surprise in seeing a fire drill well before the end.

Could it be that Jose Mourinho's pre-match fear about being outspent by City was a case of getting his excuses in early?

United fans admit they need far more new recruits than City and with Arsenal also showing their weaknesses, the 34th round of matches reinforced the view that only Liverpool look like providing City with any competition next season.

Spurs are building slowly but were not in City's league and with Harry Kane looking like the flak he's taking for his extra "goal" was weighing him down, they lacked their usual thrust.

If Sergio Aguero stays, all Pep needs is another centreback as there are quibbles about all the incumbents, and a defensive midfielder to help Fernandinho. Attacking left-back Benjamin Mendy will seem like a new player next season and Pep will no doubt work his magic on a few others.

He's worked wonders with Raheem Sterling but still needs to work a few more – on his finishing. He's bagged 20 goals but if he'd taken even half his chances, he'd have more than Mo Salah.

City also need a better second keeper than Claudio Bravo. Young loanee Angus Gunn might be ready to be recalled. But with unlimited funds and Pep showing that he learned from the harsh lessons of a disappointing debut season, it is hard not to see City taking more giant strides towards that dynasty.

He needs to rotate a little more and rest the overworked Fernandinho and Kevin de Bruyne to keep them fresh. But the outlook is bright – looking around Europe, even Real Madrid need more new players than City do. The blast is very much on.


Manchester City

It's easy to say they have the cash but only oiks would dismiss the affect Pep Guardiola has had as well as the brilliance of the likes of David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane. They have to be one of the best English champions of modern times and are a delight to watch.


Paul Pogba

Mourinho said he could smell a bad performance coming but no one had more of a stinker than the £89 million (RM495 million) man. Last week, briefly, he sparked into life. This week, he didn't even last an hour. And did a Hand of God impression. Listless didn't describe his no-show and it is no wonder his agent is hawking him around.


Gigi Buffon

We never thought we'd see the Italian legend (and erstwhile gentleman) here, but his reaction to an excruciatingly-timed but legitimate penalty was way over-the-top. Yes, he deserves sympathy for missing out on a possible CL medal, but there's a long way to go and it's no reason to drag the ref's wife into it. Lucy Oliver, herself a referee, has received death threats. Enough is enough! Come on, Gigi, apologise.


Harry Kane

Against City the Spurs striker played as if something was weighing him down. His conscience maybe? We don't know the truth but his desperate attempt to claim another goal in the race for the Golden Boot has been successful yet has turned into an own goal in terms of bad publicity. A strand of his hair may or may not have made contact with the ball but at the price of becoming a laughing stock?

Bob's latest book, Living the Dream, is available at all major book stores and Bob will be signing copies at D'Legends Bar, 24 Jalan Datuk Sulaiman, TTDI, KL, on Saturday evening, April 21st between the Liverpool vs WBA game and Spurs vs Man U FA Cup semifinal.