City fans waking up in Madrid or Manchester, and wondering whether it was all a bad dream, probably don’t want to hear it right now. But the fact is that their team’s remarkable late collapse against Real Madrid carries plenty of positives.
In the bleary morning after another huge Champions League disappointment, desolation might be the default position for those supporters who want European glory, to add to the domestic dominance the Blues have established in the last five years.
But life goes on, and there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. After all, you could be United fans, lacking the will to even protest at their club’s descent into apathy and mediocrity.
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So cheer up, Blues, take a deep breath and get ready for four league games that could write another great chapter in the history of your club. Here are five reasons to look back on the semi-final with pride and hope.
Even the staunchest Real Madrid fan would accept that the best team lost over the two legs. Only City’s lack of full-backs in the first leg, plus their inability to convert chances – something that the addition of a top-quality striker or two should address this summer – has cost them.
City might have won that first leg 7-3 or 8-3, but for Karim Benzema’s ability to conjure a goal from nothing and an incredibly unfortunate handball, the Blues would be planning a final showdown with Liverpool.
Most City fans would place the Premier League title above the Champions League, and the Blues are now just four games away from another big slice of history.
Only four clubs in English football history have won the title in four out of five years – Aston Villa in the 1890s, Arsenal in the 1930s, Liverpool in the 1970s and 80s, and Manchester United in the 2000s and 2010s – and City can add their name to that illustrious list by winning their last four games.
Over the two legs, no star shone brighter than Bernardo Silva, the epitome of everything Pep Guardiola has brought to City. His work rate of him is astonishing, his ball retention barely believable, and he throws in moments of outrageous skill.
Karim Benzema has almost written his name on the Ballon D’Or with his performances in this season’s competition, but Bernardo has been equally sensational, and the fact he now appears more settled after seeking a move for the last two summers, is great news for the Blues.
City have been excellent this season despite not having a striker, a glaring hole in their squad. With all the signs indicating that a deal for Erling Haaland is close, and with Julian Alvarez already in the bag, that issue is already being addressed.
The number of games – including both legs against Real Madrid – when a natural goalscorer would have made the difference, is without reckon. They would probably have beaten Real comfortably, and won both league games against Liverpool with someone whose primary purpose is sticking the ball in the net, and be cruising towards the two major trophies.
City will be back in the Champions League next season, and they will be stronger and more effective.
The prospect of a Champions League final trip to Paris was already turning into a nightmare. Liverpool fans had started to book flights and hotels after their 2-0 first-leg win over Villarreal – although a few might have got a little windy when the Spaniards hit back in the second leg!
Flights from Liverpool and Manchester airports were being snapped up, and the only hotels to be had either miles outside of the city or charging extortionate rates – around £1,000 a night for ordinary accommodation, in some cases.
It’s little consolation to Blues who sorely wanted to go again in a Champions League final, but they have saved a fortune, and a major hassle in getting to a game – an all-English final between two clubs whose rivalry has threatened to turn unpleasant in recent seasons, was not a healthy prospect.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.