By Ian Chadband
(Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been doing his best to keep a lid on the hoopla surrounding his rampant charges but even he could not have expected to hear the first mention of the word “quadruple” before Christmas.
After his second-string side battled into the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday with a 4-3 shootout win at Leicester City following a 1-1 draw after extra time, the Spaniard was asked if his team could win four trophies this season.
Guardiola’s withering look said it all. “Forget about it. That is not going to happen,” he told Sky Sports in a manner that brooked no argument.
That was all very well but the dazzling way his team are playing continues to make the fanciful seem possible.
The Premier League, which they lead by 11 points, already looks wrapped up, while City are now in the last four of a competition they are looking to win for the third time in five seasons at Wembley in February.
If they keep playing the brand of football that has looked the most scintillating in Europe then triumphs in the Champions League and FA Cup do not seem outlandish possibilities either.
City’s hierarchy certainly believe it is possible with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak having in the close season broached the possibility of winning the quadruple.
He did not employ a manager who once won six trophies in a season at Barcelona without sky-high, sky blue expectations.
Pep’s latest grand experiment is going so sweetly that City have not lost a domestic game since last season’s FA Cup semi-final with Arsenal and their only loss anywhere this term was at Shakhtar Donetsk in a dead Champions League rubber for them.
On Tuesday’s evidence, what must delight Guardiola as much as the breathtaking stuff being played by his A listers is that he appears to be blooding a new generation imbued with toughness as well as real quality who can slot in seamlessly if needed.
Phil Foden, 17, one of the bright young hopes in the English game, 18-year-old Spaniard Brahim Diaz, and local defender Tosin Adarabioyo, 20, all played an admirable part in City’s win.
Guardiola’s side prevailed after Bernardo Silva had put City ahead before Jamie Vardy equalised with what looked a harshly-awarded penalty in the seventh minute of added time.
After extra time, City keeper Claudio Bravo saved the key Riyad Mahrez penalty to earn the shootout victory.
“A lot of young players played. I am so happy for all the players. They showed me very good things,” said Guardiola.
When later he was further pressed by reporters about winning four trophies, the Spaniard added: “That’s unreal…. In football you drop points, you lose. I am not thinking about titles.”
(Reporting by Ian Chadband; editing by Ken Ferris)