FA Cup: Peerless Manchester City complete historic treble as Pep Guardiola lays foundation for future domination

Hitting a six is something you usually hear in a cricket commentary but Manchester City ensured the phrase entered the football history books by beating Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final on Saturday. The match, contrary to pre-match expectations, turned out to be a mere formality for England’s domestic champions as they ran past the Hornets with ease.

e build-up to the final of England’s oldest football tournament was all about which Watford FC would turn up — the one that rises up to the occasion or the one that bottles. A 6-0 score-line wouldn’t have been predicted by even the people who put their money on the mistake-prone Watford turning up though.

Manchester City now have the domestic treble, a feat never achieved before by a men’s team in England, but the match will, unfortunately, be remembered for Watford’s PlayStation-like football. A move in the second half encapsulated the match perfectly well. Watford are in control after starting the second half with more intent and win a foul nearly 30 yards away from the goal. City struggle to clear the resultant the free-kick but finally heave it to the half-way line were some sloppy work from Watford defenders sets Gabriel Jesus free. The Brazilian delivers a sweetly weighted pass to Kevin De Bruyne and the Belgian fakes the keeper to score City’s third. 3-0, game over!

Erratic Watford

After a thrashing at the hands of West Ham United in the last weekend of the Premier League, Javi Gracia’s decision to opt for a cautious approach against a free-scoring City side wasn’t entirely surprising. What was strange, however, was his shift in strategies – from a fluid, attacking 4-2-2-2 to a defensive-minded 4-5-1. The move backfired for Watford as it played right into City’s hands who bossed possession from very early on and went on to score two goals in the first half to all but kill the tie. Watford’s advantage was their physicality but they failed to use it as City had them pinned to the back for most parts of the match.

The second half showed glimpses of what Watford can do with Troy Deeney starting to trouble the City defenders but it all capitulated when City hit Watford on a devastating break for De Bruyne to make it 3-0. From there on it was a race by City players to get on the scoresheet with Jesus and Raheem Sterling leading the way.

It is fair to say Gracia got his strategy wrong for the match but then again this is City we are talking about — a side which has won 50 matches this season. Realistically, this was bound to be a mismatch. Just that football is a game built on hope, and cup finals have a tendency to bring out the very best in certain individuals.

Let’s talk about City

Despite all the positive football, Manchester City’s record-busting season has somewhat received a lukewarm response from the football fraternity. The problem for City and Guardiola is that success has become the norm in the blue half of Manchester. Winning isn’t headline material anymore. 5-0 into the FA Cup final and it was the Watford fans making all the noise at Wembley.

People might argue that one should expect nothing less from a squad assembled with a lot of money. And City’s depth was there for everyone to see. They could afford to not play Sergio Aguero and bring on Kevin De Bruyne for Riyad Mahrez after 50 minutes – no team in England can boast of such firepower. But it still takes a mastermind to get these players working together as a team and Guardiola has performed well at that. He now has a bunch of hungry players playing his system at City.

To put things in perspective — the best Liverpool side in the past three decades could not dethrone them in the League. The foundation has been laid by Guardiola for at least a decade of domination with the senior players slowly being phased out for a newer, hungrier batch.

Passing the baton

Only a few remain from the City side the first won the Premier League but Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and David Silva still played a vital for the Sky Blues’ successful season. Of the three, it was Silva who had looked a little out of colour but the Spaniard was the key to unlocking the Watford defence in the first half.

Silva is no longer Manchester City’s pivot. In fact, it is another Silva, Bernardo, who has had a considerable impact in the team this season. The 33-year-old Spaniard is certainly in the twilight of a great career but as they say, class is permanent and he certainly showed that in the FA Cup final. City are in fact phasing out the team’s experienced professionals in an effective way. Kompany has Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte all set to take over his place while Jesus seems ready to be Aguero’s successor whenever the time comes.

Silva’s place is still up for grabs though. Kevin De Bruyne seems the perfect candidate but only time will tell if the Belgian midfielder will go on to achieve what Silva did at City – two FA Cups, four Premier League titles and four League Cups. (Firstpost)