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Ian Cheeseman: Forever Blue

Only last week I wrote that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team wasn’t getting the credit it deserves amid the 115 allegations the Premier League is investigating against the club.

Clearly there are many people who feel City have bought their success, but of course football isn’t just about money.

It’s true to say that Ashton United haven’t got the financial resources to compete with the Blues, but the top Premier League clubs can; in theory. Right now, though, City are building up a head of steam that seems unstoppable as they go for back to back trebles. I’m not suggesting that’s a certainty but with the quality and belief they have, I wouldn’t rule it out, just yet.

Those claiming City’s financial clout is all that’s making them special, right now, should remember that the hattrick hero of their 3-1 win at Brentford on Monday night, Phil Foden, is a product of City’s highly productive academy and therefore there was no multi-million pound transfer fee. The lad from Stockport, has been a Blue from birth and was once a City ball-boy. As I pointed out in my column last week, there have been many success stories from the academy, some have which have moved on to other clubs, like Ben Mee who was at the heart of Brentford’s defence on Monday.

The real key to City’s unrelenting ability to come from behind, which they’ve done on many occasions under Pep Guardiola, is the City coach himself. Of course, the team is full of amazing players, but I believe that Pep’s coaching means that his teams have always been greater than the sum of the individual parts.

I believe that there are players in the City squad that would not shine quite like they do under Pep if they were at other clubs. I won’t name those I think that description fits, but it wasn’t that long ago that Oleks Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus were winning titles at the Etihad Stadium. These days they’re not even guaranteed starting positions at Arsenal. That’s not because they’re bad players. I think both players are top class, but the difference is the Arsenal side is not coached as well as this exceptional City team.

Pep Guardiola makes every player, with few exceptions, better that when he signed them. Kalvin Phillips is perhaps the rare exception to that rule.

With Arsenal beating Liverpool on Sunday, the Premier League Title race is now wide open again. The game at Anfield between Liverpool and City looks like it could be pivotal. The Blues haven’t done that well there, in recent years, with their biggest success being behind closed doors during that awful Covid season. Maybe this season will see City victorious again; we shall see.

This week has been a lucky week for me because Pep’s confidant, Manuel Estiarte, arranged for me to meet Pep Guardiola privately, to have a picture with the Champions League trophy. Not only did I get to achieve that goal, but we spent a few minutes talking before he hugged me and signed my treble shirt.

I spoke to someone behind the scenes at City while I was waiting for Pep and I asked him what he was like away from the public gaze. He told me he was very intense, which you’d expect from such a successful man. He also told me that when you do something Pep likes he makes you feel like you’re floating on air.

That’s certainly how I felt after my personal meeting with City’s greatest ever manager and judging by what we are seeing on the pitch, that’s clearly how the players feel. They must all feel like I do that, It’s Great to be a Blue!

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