IT’S hard to pinpoint the moment when Manchester City morphed into elite football’s version of the Marvel movie franchise, but their omnipresence feels just about complete.
Pep Guardiola’s jazzy artists have gone heavy metal, but in a streamlined, Mad Max kind of way. They now come with spikes and battering rams. Kevin de Bruyne and Erling Haaland can move in a straight line and cut through anyone. City were always technically ahead, but now they boast physical control, too.
And how do we feel about this? The eternal quest for perfection has universal appeal and should be embraced by all, theoretically. What’s not to like?
Certainly in the early years of Guardiola’s era, it was great fun, rather like the initial flourish of the Marvel movies. De Bruyne was Captain America, endearing, formidable, devoted to the cause and willing to take one for the team, despite his elevated status. Ilkay Gundogan was a bit of a Winter Soldier and Jack Grealish’s story arc now has a redemptive feel to it, the cheeky scoundrel embracing his Iron Man-like playboy persona, before learning the true value of sacrifice.
And as City’s Treble challenge gets upgraded from possible to probable – in light of their 4-1 win over Arsenal – a crescendo feels imminent. They have their Thor in Haaland, a celestial being not of this earth, and are assembling for the endgame, a pinnacle beyond all others since Manchester United’s Treble in 1999.
And then what?