“I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again,” cried Martin Tyler in the seconds that followed Sergio Aguero’s last-gasp title winner in 2012. For 10 years and nine days, it seemed that he was right.
Then on Sunday, remarkably, Manchester City did it all again. After a dismal 75 minutes that saw them fall two goals behind to Aston Villa, City scored three goals in a mad five-minute spell to salvage their Premier League ambitions and scupper Liverpool’s quadruple dream.
Ilkay Gundogan’s second goal of the day, a close-range tap-in that completed the incredible comeback, sparked scenes of celebration in the Etihad Stadium akin to those witnessed a little over 10 years ago.
READ MORE: Get your hands on Man City Premier League champions and celebration specials
With another seemingly improbable final day comeback written into history books, you get the sense that the circumstances in which City won their fourth Premier League title in five years will benefit the club far beyond merely adding another trophy to the cabinet.
In a way, the fashion in which City did it is more important that winning the title itself. Regardless of whether they intended to or not, City are building a reputation, a legend almost, of being the Premier League club that is never dead and burried.
In many aspects City have been a super-club for a few years now. The titles they’ve won, the caliber of players they sign and the fact that Pep Guardiola is their coach make it hard to argue otherwise.
But until now there has been one thing missing, and City have been on the receiving end of it in recent times.
Certain clubs posses an intangible aura in certain situations, a self-belief that they will prevail that infects their opponents and converts the non-believers.
As City fans we may be loathe to admit, but there is something special, something unique, about European nights at Anfield. There’s just something about the place, the way that Kop can almost suck the ball into the net when Liverpool are in a tough situation on the biggest continental stage.
As City found out to their cost, the same goes at Real Madrid. The 13 time champions of Europe are exactly that for a reason; they never know when they’re beaten in the Champions League.
In the knockout stages of this season’s competition alone they staged remarkable comebacks against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and City, almost as if they found an extra 10% of fight and energy when their backs were really up against the wall.
Looking further back and closer to home, there was Fergie time at Manchester United. City’s neighbors had a knack of scoring in time added on to injury-time, particularly against City.
Such is the ultra-controlling, tactically complex way Guardiola’s side usually overcome their opponents, it seems daft to explain results with buzzwords like ‘momentum’ or ‘narrative’. But as the three aforementioned teams have shown, tactics and game plans are not always the main factor.
When playing at the Bernabeu, if Real Madrid pull a late goal back then opposition players – like City’s – can not help but think of all the times Los Blancos have staged incredible comebacks. That breeds nerves and poor decision-making, even when the individuals concerned are some of the best defenders in the world.
That kind of historical recall also galvanizes the home fans and gives the home players belief – they know they’ve been in similar situations before and in that moment believe they can achieve anything.
In the space of 10 years City have twice pulled away from the brink of failure to win the title in dramatic circumstances. In doing so they have built a culture not dissimilar to those of Real Madrid, Liverpool and (formerly) United.
Going forward City fans will be more confident that it’s never over, while the players, even if they weren’t involved in 93:20 or on Sunday, will look back and feed off the energy and never-say-die attitude that is enshrined in club legend.
City now have a clear identity of being the team that does not know when it’s beaten in Premier League title races. Up until now, it was the only thing they were missing.
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