Manchester City’s treble winners arguably greatest ever English team – Joe Royle

Manchester City’s treble winners arguably greatest ever English team – Joe Royle

Former Manchester City boss Joe Royle says Pep Guardiola’s current side is “one of, if not the best” English football has seen.

City completed the treble on Saturday night with victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League final and Royle has no doubts where Guardiola’s class of 2023 ranks in the all-time list.

Royle, 74, who led City from the third tier to the Premier League after back-to-back promotions in 1999 and 2000, told the PA news agency: “There’s no doubt about it. They’re one of, if not the best English club side there has been.

Former City manager Joe Royle claims Pep Guardiola's Champions League winners are among English football's greatest
Former City manager Joe Royle claims Pep Guardiola’s Champions League winners are among English football’s greatest (Nick Potts/PA)

“They’ve got to be talked of as one of them. They can play off the cuff or play in various systems and they can counter very quickly.

“They’ve got world-class individuals, they’ve got the team ethic and they’ve got a very, very strong squad, covering every position.”

Manchester United became the first English side to win the treble – league title, FA Cup and Champions League – under Sir Alex Ferguson in 1999, the same year City dropped into the third tier for the first time in their history.

The debate will now rage among both clubs’ fans over which is the greater achievement and Royle said: “A treble is a treble.

“They’re both equally matched when compared to their rivals in their era and both City and United fans will rightfully claim that their side’s treble was the best.”

Under Royle, City ended their one season in the old Second Division, now League One, in thrilling fashion by beating Gillingham on penalties in the play-off final at Wembley.

Gillingham had led 2-0 in the final minute of normal time before last-gasp goals from City pair Kevin Horlock and Paul Dickov took the tie to extra-time and then penalties, with Royle’s side winning the shoot-out 3-1.

“It was an unforgettable way to win promotion,” Royle said. “And when you consider how far City have come since then, there’s no secret.

“The current ownership, with their financial support, have changed City from a side that did sink to the third tier.

“We got back into the Premier League, but we certainly didn’t have the funding that the side does today in order for us to stay there and we went straight back down again.

“But it’s been mostly on the up since then. It can never be too quick for a club to get in the Premier League.

“The current side, look where they’ve gone now. They’ve completed the treble and deservedly so. You can never get there too quickly.”

Guardiola’s City have been crowned English champions in five of the last six seasons, but, after finally securing the Champions League Royle, is not sure if they will now dominate Europe in a similar manner.

“Football is a season-by-season game isn’t it?” he added. “Certainly anyone who finishes ahead of them next season, in England or Europe, is going to be doing very well.

“The money has been spent very well. They’ve generally bought very well. It’s one thing having money and another thing using it wisely and City have been very good at that.”