Man City’s David Silva-Kevin De Bruyne prototype sets benchmark for prolific FA Cup foes Fulham – Dominic Farrell


Record-breaking and unprecedented feats have become par for the course at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Whether it’s the 100-point Premier League-winning campaign in 2017/18, the English domestic treble of 2018/19 or last season’s 21-match winning streak in all competitions, City are masters when it comes to break the record books and write a new entry

However, one of the club’s greatest 21st-century records is under threat from this weekend’s FA Cup opponents.

Spearheaded by the inimitable and prolific Aleksandar Mitrovic and buoyed by an incredible run of 7-0, 6-2 and 6-2 wins over Reading, Bristol City and Birmingham City respectively last month, Championship-leading Fulham , has 74 goals in 28 leagues. games.

To put that into context, second-placed Blackburn Rovers have the second-most goals in the division this term with 45, having played one more game than the Cottagers.

It means that Fulham have three figures firmly in their sights. The only other team to rise from the second division this century is Manchester City, back in 2001/02.

It’s a season that City fans still remember particularly fondly, in which new manager Kevin Keegan relocated some of his old magic from 1990s Newcastle United to unleash an exciting and gritty side that broke through promotion.

City and Keegan met at the perfect time. ‘King Kev’ took on his first managerial role since his spell in England came to an unfortunate and soggy end with defeat to Germany in the final match at old Wembley.

The Blues were in the midst of a rollercoaster period, having plunged into Division Two in 1998. Joe Royle inspired back-to-back promotions, but those exploits caught up with an overmatched City, who were relegated in their first season in the big time. in 2001.

Royle was duly sacked and Keegan’s arrival was in line with bigger new horizons for a club preparing to move into what was then known as the City of Manchester Stadium once it was converted for football after the 2002 Commonwealth games.

That meant just two more seasons on a bumpy but beloved Maine Road and the famous old course received its latest flagship gear after a decade of often abysmal fayre.

City got under way with a 3-0 win on Saturday night over Watford in the opening weekend, but a 2-0 loss at Norwich in their next game hinted at the early season inconsistency that would haunt the Keegan’s team.

Shaun Goater scored 32 goals in a prolific 2001/02

West Brom and Wimbledon each claimed 4-0 victories over the promotion favorites and Keegan decided the best response to a leaky defense was an all-out attack.

After an autumn dalliance with an unbalanced 4-4-2, he settled on a bold 3-5-2 model that would tear Division One apart on December 1, 2001.

A 2-0 win at Grimsby Town looks bland enough on paper, but it was the first time Keegan had fielded Danny Tiatto and emerging Shaun Wright-Phillips at full-backs, with goalscoring midfielder Kevin Horlock anchoring a dreamy midfield. which combined the duel game. talents of Ali Benarbia and Eyal Berkovic.

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Guardiola was told he could forget about pairing David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne as number eight twins in England, but Keegan did his best to solve that problem with the brilliant Benarbia and Berkovic in tandem 15 years earlier.

Eyal Berkovic enjoyed a wonderful alliance in midfield with Ali Benarbia

The strikers enjoyed the sumptuous service. Cult hero Shaun Goater enjoyed his most prolific season in blue with 32 in all competitions, while Darren Huckerby reached 26.

Paulo Wanchope played down an injury-ravaged campaign with 12 of 14 league starts, including a stunning hat-trick on New Year’s Day as Burnley were beaten 5-1 in a league-top clash. table.

That sparked a run of seven wins in a row in all competitions, including stirring triumphs when reduced to 10 men early in home games with Norwich City and Milwall, while Premier League Ipswich Town were beaten 4-1 at Portman Road in the FA Cup. , with a national television audience enjoying a shout out from Berkovic.

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Keegan’s unbridled side failed to catch on and they sealed the title with a hat-trick from Huckerby and a masterclass from Benarbia in a 5-1 thrashing of Barnsley.

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A 3–1 victory on the final day against Portsmouth saw City finish with 108 goals. It would have been 109 had it not been for a wayward penalty from Stuart Pearce in his farewell professional appearance.

When the top of the Premier League take on the top of the Championship on Saturday, much will be done by Marco Silva’s side doing everything they can to emulate Guardiola’s brilliant outfit. But it is the beloved City team of 20 years ago with whom they have much more in common.

What are your favorite memories of the 2001/02 season? Follow the editor of City Is Ours Dom Farrell on Twitter to join in the discussion and give us your feedback in the comments section below.




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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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