When Pep Guardiola swapped Munich for Manchester in the summer of 2016, it practically confirmed that Manchester City had a highly successful period on the horizon given that the Catalan boss guarantees silverware everywhere he goes.
Roberto Mancini didn’t come with quite the same guarantee when he replaced Mark Hughes in the City hot seat in December 2009, but it’s fair to say that it was only a matter of time before the money Sheikh Mansour invested into improving all aspects of the club, was eventually going to pay dividends.
Mancini’s first chance to win a trophy came immediately when just after the turn of the year and decade in 2009/10, the rising force of City faced the formidable force of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United who were off the back of winning three straight league titles as well as reaching back-to-back Champions League finals (winning one).
In 2010, the Red Devils also were the current holders of the League Cup.
Although City had a wealth of attacking options featuring the likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy; they went into the 2010 League Cup Manchester Derby semi-final as underdogs.
But as the last decade has been and gone, a new decade is upon us and like the last one League Cup football kicks off with a semi-final between the two Manchester clubs, where this time around, the tables have turned from 10 years ago.
The year 2010 was meant to be the year City ended their 35-year trophy drought and qualify for the Champions League (none of which ended up happening that year but did the following year), while United were in the midst of one of the most successful spells of winning silverware in the club’s rich history – chasing an eighth trophy in the space of four years.
Should Guardiola win a third successive League Cup this year, it would be City’s sixth trophy in the past two years.
At this moment in time, City are where United were in 2010 having been dominant domestically and competing with the best on Europe’s top table.
In fact, the current situation in the Premier League where Guardiola’s City have set the bar for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to go above and beyond this season reminds one of the level Ferguson’s side set for Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea to topple them domestically in 2009/10.
United meanwhile, are re-building, using City and Liverpool (the league’s gold standard) as the template – just as City looked to United and Chelsea in 2010 – two teams who had consistently been going full tilt in the league and Champions League in the second part of the first decade of the millennium.
City pushed United far to signal that the gap was closing between the two Manchester clubs, but a last-gasp Wayne Rooney goal in the second leg at Old Trafford saw United through to the final – where Rooney scored the winner again against Aston Villa at Wembley.
Aston Villa could lie in wait for the winner again; they entertain Leicester City in the other semi-final.
A repeat of the 2010 final certainly isn’t out of the question, United have picked up 11 points in five Premier League games against last season’s ‘big six’ this term, including a 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium a month ago.
United’s young team, like City’s rising force ten years ago, have the ammunition up top to ask questions of City’s suspect defence just as they did last month. But like United’s champion squad of 10 years ago, City’s champion squad of today will feel they have to win this one.
The chance of winning a first piece of silverware as a manager in Manchester is tempting for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, as it was for Mancini in 2010. Guardiola’s City are the penultimate obstacle to this, and without doubt the most challenging obstacle that could be there.