Manchester City has claimed the first, male domestic treble in English football history, underlining its local superiority with a 6-0 thumping of Watford at Wembley in the FA Cup final.
- Manchester City’s 6-0 win over Watford equals a 116-year-old record
- City manager Pep Guardiola reacted angrily to a question about an ongoing UEFA investigation
- If City are found guilty by UEFA they face being banned from the Champions League
However, the club’s moment of triumph was clouded by questions over alleged breaches of the Union of European Football Associations’ (UEFA) Financial Fair Play restrictions, with coach Pep Guardiola bristling after questions were asked during a press conference.
Guardiola was incredulous after being asked whether he had ever received extra, separate payments from Abu Dhabi, as was alleged about one of his predecessors, Roberto Mancini.
Mancini — who won three trophies as Manchester City manager between 2009 and 2013 — was alleged to have received separate payments as a consultant in order to contravene Financial Fair Play rules.
Financial Fair Play was introduced by former UEFA president Michel Platini to prevent clubs in its competitions from spending beyond their means and remove “financial doping” from football.
Under the rules, financial losses are limited and clubs are obliged to meet all of their transfer and employee payment commitments at all times.
Guardiola was hostile as he responded to the reporter who asked the question, while the team’s media liaison officer attempted to intervene.
“Do you know the question that you are asking to me?” Guardiola said.
“Do you know the question [you’re] asking of me, if I receive money for another situation, right now today?
“Do you, honestly, do you think I deserve to make this type of question … on the day we won the treble about if I receive money from other situations?”
After shaking his head and tutting whilst his media liaison officer requested different questions, Guardiola continued the exchange.
“Are you accusing me to receive money?” he asked.
When the reporter responded in the negative, Guardiola simply nodded, saying: “That’s good.”
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Champions League ban
Manchester City face a UEFA enquiry, with some reports suggesting that UEFA could seek to ban Manchester City from the Champions League for a season.
Any ban is unlikely to impact next season’s competition, with qualifying rounds scheduled to take place in July.
UEFA have alleged Manchester City inflated the value of its multi-million-pound sponsorship deals.
The investigation, led by former Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme, is yet to release its final decision.
Manchester City released a statement prior to the Cup final saying it was “disappointed, but regrettably not surprised” by the reports.
“The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and … ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC.”
Before the final, Guardiola said he trusted the club when it told him there was no truth to the allegations.
“I said yesterday in the press conference, we are not guilty and [UEFA] have to prove it,” he said.
“I listen to my chairman, my CEO, they give me arguments, and I trust them.
“When they tell me we did absolutely follow the rules, I’m sorry, I believe them.”
Manchester City has spent more than a billion pounds ($1.85 billion) on players since Sheikh Mansour bought the club in 2008.
Biggest victory since 1903
Already holders of the Premier League trophy and League Cup — as well as the often-overlooked season-opening Community Shield — Manchester City were imperious in claiming a clean sweep of England’s domestic silverware this season.
Watford, playing in its first FA Cup final in 35 years, almost took a shock lead in the 11th minute when Ederson was forced into action to deny Roberto Pereyra.
The Hornets then had a frantic penalty appeal emphatically waved away by referee Kevin Friend when Abdoulaye Doucoure’s shot appeared to be blocked by the arm of Vincent Kompany.
However, just moments later, City opened the scoring when David Silva slammed home from close range — his first goal of 2019.
Ten minutes later, Bernardo Silva drifted a peach of a pass over the Watford defence to Gabriel Jesus at the back post, whose acute-angle finish crept home just before Raheem Stirling arrived to make sure it crossed the line to double the advantage.
Kevin de Bruyne walked in City’s third goal before Jesus grabbed a second to make it four.
Stirling would later score a double to complete the record-equalling rout but was sensationally schooled by his manager on the pitch after receiving his medal, highlighting Guardiola’s post-match claim that City can get better.
“We have to,” Guardiola told the BBC.
“Always you can improve. There is no sense to stay still.”
The 6-0 score line equalled that of Bury’s 1903 final triumph over Derby County at Crystal Palace.