London. Manchester City’s swaggering march to the title has seen Pep Guardiola’s side hailed as one of the finest teams in the Premier League era.
Fuelled by the majestic form of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and company, City have sent records tumbling, including notching an incredible 18 successive top-flight wins.
They could yet beat three significant Premier League landmarks set by Chelsea -- the highest points tally of 95 in 2004-2005, the most wins in a season at 30 in 2016-2017 and the most goals scored at 103 in 2009-2010.
Manchester United’s shock 1-0 defeat to West Brom on Sunday saw City match another record by winning the league with five games to spare.
But where do they rank among the Premier League’s most celebrated sides? “It doesn’t take a genius to tell us Manchester City are playing scintillating football right now. Some of the best we have ever seen in this country? I would say so,” former England captain Alan Shearer said.
But Ryan Giggs, who won 13 titles with Manchester United, believes City need to maintain their dominance for several seasons to join the all-time greats.
“I think to compare them to ourselves, Arsenal and Chelsea, you have to win multiple titles. You have to be consistent, not just one wonder season,” Giggs said.
The pinnacle of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal reign remains the “Invincibles” -- only the second team to go through an English top-flight season without losing a single game after Preston’s unbeaten feat in 1889. (AFP)
Finishing 11 points clear of Chelsea, the Gunners won 26 times and scored 73 goals, but mere numbers do not do justice to their majesty.
Arsenal’s strength lay in their incredible collection of attacking talent, with Thierry Henry the perfect spearhead alongside the sublime Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires.
Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira’s combative presence in midfield shielded a rearguard that, aside from the towering Sol Campbell, had three players in Ashley Cole, Lauren and Kolo Toure who were converted by Wenger into defenders as he put a premium on technical skill.
Manchester United (1998-99)
“Football, bloody hell!” Alex Ferguson said with a bemused smile after United capped the most successful season in the club’s illustrious history.
United had just achieved what many deemed impossible, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and European Cup treble.
An unbelievable comeback in the Champions League final, where goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in the final seconds secured a 2-1 win over Bayern Munich, was the crowning glory for Ferguson as he finally got his hands on Europe’s elite club prize.
It was a tribute to Ferguson’s team-building genius that, just two seasons after the departure of the talismanic Eric Cantona, United were once again at the summit -- this time thanks to legendary “Class of ‘92” graduates Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes and the Neville brothers.
In the space of 10 incredible days, they pipped Arsenal to the title by a single point, dispatched Newcastle in the FA Cup final and headed to the Camp Nou, where immortality awaited.
Having loudly trumpeted his arrival at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho lived up the “special one” hype in his first season in England.
Mourinho used a powerful blueprint to break Arsenal and Manchester United’s duopoly, focusing on building a defence that, anchored by John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, would concede only 15 goals -- less than half the number let in by second-placed Arsenal.
Arjen Robben and Damien Duff’s pace on the wings allowed Chelsea to become a counter-attacking force, with midfielders Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele also producing standout campaigns.
Beaten just once while winning 29 of their 38 games, Chelsea finished 12 points clear to claim their first top-flight title in 50 years, and only the second in the club’s history.
Manchester United (2007-08)
In the midst of winning four titles in five years, this was an increasingly sophisticated United side, reflecting Ferguson’s desire to thrive in Europe as well on domestic soil.
The defending champions were marshalled by Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with Paul Scholes, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick able to intelligently retain possession in midfield.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney formed a lethal attacking trio, with Ronaldo virtually unstoppable as he scored 31 league goals en route to winning the Ballon d’Or.
Winning the title by two points from Chelsea, in the Champions League United saw off Barcelona in the semi-finals and, in the final, beat Chelsea on penalties in the Moscow rain.
Manchester United (1993-94)
No side in Ferguson’s 27-year reign better represented the Scot’s fiercely competitive spirit than this buccaneering group, who mixed a commitment to attack with a mean streak that made them impossible to rattle if the game turned ugly.
Peter Schmeichel was the league’s best goalkeeper, Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister provided a rock-solid foundation in defence, while Roy Keane arrived from Nottingham Forest for a British record fee to form a formidable midfield partnership with Paul Ince.
Lee Sharpe, Andrei Kanchelskis and Giggs cut a dash on the wings, while Cantona provided the inspiration alongside Mark Hughes up front.
United were top of the table after 40 of their 42 matches and eventually finished eight points clear of second-placed Blackburn before thrashing Chelsea 4-0 in the FA Cup final.