IAN LADYMAN: Forget Jurgen Klopp's last lap at Liverpool or Arsenal's return to prominence... Manchester City are creeping up on another treble by stealth
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Amid the excited rattle and hum of another Premier League season finale, Manchester City’s inexorable progress to what would be an unprecedented and quite stunning consecutive treble continues almost in silence.

This is not a sly dig at the atmosphere at the Etihad. That’s for others to debate. Personally, I have never found anything wrong with it.

No, it’s not that. It’s a reference to – I suppose – how a lion hunts. Or how a cobra moves through the grass. Silently. Without fuss. But successfully. Oh so predictably successfully.

Can we safely say that City will win the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League for the second season running? No, we can’t.

Manchester City juggernaut continued on Wednesday as they thumped Luton in the FA Cup

Manchester City juggernaut continued on Wednesday as they thumped Luton in the FA Cup

City put down another marker after thumping Luton 6-2 to keep their Treble quest alive

City put down another marker after thumping Luton 6-2 to keep their Treble quest alive

Pep Guardiola's side are looking to repeat last season's feats by winning the Treble once again

Pep Guardiola’s side are looking to repeat last season’s feats by winning the Treble once again

Mail Sport's Ian Ladyman believes City win relentlessly and quietly in a manner alien to us

Mail Sport’s Ian Ladyman believes City win relentlessly and quietly in a manner alien to us

Does it look a pretty solid bet right now? It absolutely has to.

Because in order for it not to happen somebody will have to beat them and the further we go in to Guardiola’s time at City the less often that happens, particularly at this stage of the season.

So despite the emotion attached to Jurgen Klopp’s last lap at Liverpool, the adrenaline of Arsenal’s return to form and prominence in the title race under Mikel Arteta and the all the enduring chatter around managers like Erik ten Hag and Eddie Howe, the real story of this season is once again simmering away beneath the surface. Manchester City are that story. Again. It’s just that sometimes it’s hard to notice.

City last lost a game of football on December 6. 2023, away 1-0 at Aston Villa. They have lost once on a run of 28 games in all competitions going back to the start of October. Recently they played averagely in drawing with Chelsea and winning 1-0 at Bournemouth and the foolish and desperate began to talk up a drop in form. And then they went to Luton in the FA Cup and scored six and that put at end to all that.

And that is what this City do. They win relentlessly and quietly in a manner previously alien to us. And that is why a second treble is so very possible.

Will Manchester United beat them in the Premier League on Sunday? Highly unlikely. FC Copenhagen in the Champions League next Wednesday? No chance. Newcastle in the FA Cup? Hard to see it. Liverpool at Anfield a week on Sunday? Maybe but even if they do would the smart money really be on Klopp’s injury-hit, over-exerted squad holding City at bay over the 10 games that would then remain?

Absolutely everything that City do will be viewed with an eyebrow raised until the matter of their 115 Premier League charges is settled. For some, nothing they do will mean much until they can prove themselves to be financially clean. I understand that.

You have to go back to December 6, 2023 for the last time City lost a match - at Aston Villa

You have to go back to December 6, 2023 for the last time City lost a match – at Aston Villa

However, that doesn’t make all of us blind to what they do on the field and in particular the influence Guardiola has on the way football is played in this country.

We will miss Klopp when he goes. We have much to thank the Liverpool manager for. We will miss the sheer unrelenting theatre of his team’s football. But he will not leave a footprint as large as the one Guardiola will when he follows him out.

I was listening to Wayne Rooney talk on a Gary Neville podcast this week and the former United forward told of how he tried to implement some of Guardiola’s use of full-backs during his time in charge at Birmingham City. We may laugh as it didn’t work. Rooney was sacked after 15 games.

But talk to coaches in England at all levels of the pyramid and Guardiola’s teachings and preachings are the ones so many of them return to time and time again. Bright football men and women who want to get better at what they do take their lead from what happens on a Saturday at the Etihad.

If City do win the treble again, is it good for our game? I don’t see why it isn’t. Approve of their methods or not, Guardiola’s City have been driving standards at the top of the pyramid for so long now. It’s up the rest to follow.

There are stories and plots everywhere you look in the Premier League right now. City are rarely one of them but a hard truth remains. The real cold power continues to wear sky blue.

Guardiola's innovations with his full backs are a tactic that many in England are trying to copy

Guardiola’s innovations with his full backs are a tactic that many in England are trying to copy

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has been doing some rowing back regarding his suggestion that a new Manchester United stadium could be part-funded by the taxpayer.

Ratcliffe can dress it up how he likes. He can call it the regeneration of Trafford Park. He can talk about building a Wembley for the north.

But the bottom line is the majority owners of United remain the Glazer family. Since their leveraged purchase of the club in 2005 the Floridians have taken more than £1.5bn out of United.

So even the faintest whisper that a single penny towards a new stadium should come from the public purse is therefore as insulting as it is preposterous. If United want to build a new ground, they should pay for it themselves. Just like everybody else.

Plans to redevelop Old Trafford or build a new ground entirely are being discussed

Plans to redevelop Old Trafford or build a new ground entirely are being discussed

Sir Jim Ratcliffe said this month United would consider all options when it came to the ground

Sir Jim Ratcliffe said this month United would consider all options when it came to the ground

I was dismissive of the FA Cup being played in a midweek but I was quite wrong.

These last few days have felt like an event and was helped by compelling matches at Ewood Park, Stamford Bridge and the City Ground.

A shame then that someone proposed the basket case idea of holding the draw for the quarter-finals an hour before Wednesday’s fifth round ties had even taken place.

Football. It doesn’t always help itself does it?

A 10-point penalty for Everton’s Profit and Sustainability breach was too high. It’s right that it has now been reduced.

But to paint this as vindication of the Merseyside club’s approach to financing is quite wrong. Everton played it fast and loose at the margins and messed it up.

That part remains unchanged.

Everton's 10-point penalty for breaching the Premier League's spending rules was reduced to six following an appeal

Everton’s 10-point penalty for breaching the Premier League’s spending rules was reduced to six following an appeal

It was in November 2016 at Anfield that 17-year-old Ben Woodburn eclipsed Michael Owen to become Liverpool’s youngest ever goal scorer with a strike against Leeds in the League Cup.

The next day we reproduced a comment made in our Secret Scout column that was running at the time. Our mystery man had a bloody good hit record and had scouted Woodburn two months earlier, writing: ‘If he continues to progress, he will be worth a lot of money. Liverpool appear to have their successor to Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen.’

Woodburn is 24 now and a Wales international. He has a decent career. But it’s not at Liverpool. He made one Premier League start and three in the FA Cup and after loans at Sheffield United, Oxford, Blackpool and Hearts he has now settled permanently at Preston for whom he has made 12 Championship starts and 44 substitute appearances in a season and a half.

Ben Woodburn was tipped for great things at Liverpool but never reached his potential

Ben Woodburn was tipped for great things at Liverpool but never reached his potential

It’s wonderful when we see young talent burst through as it has for Liverpool over the last six days. It lifts the heart. But the greatest challenge for Bobby Clark, Lewis Koumas, Jayden Danns, Trey Nyoni and the rest is to kick on from here.

If Klopp’s successor has even one of them in his Premier League team as a regular in two years’ time, that will – as desperately sour as it sounds – be a very good return indeed.

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