'Pendulum is swinging’ - Man City star claims they’re closing the gap on Man Utd legacy

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During an in-depth Q&A, Kyle Walker discussed his near move to Bayern Munich last summer.

Another season, another year of unprecedented success for Manchester City. After the high of the treble in 2022/23, finding the motivation to go again this term was always going to be tough.

But it’s been a campaign that has seen the club scale new heights once again. A first Uefa Super Cup success was followed by a maiden Club World Cup in December. Last week, City became the first side to win four consecutive top-flight titles and Sunday’s win over West Ham United was a 35th game without defeat in all competitions - a record for a Premier League side.

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This weekend offers another slice of history as City could win a back-to-back double for the first time in the history of English football. Pep Guardiola admitted last week that these accolades and achievements keep him and his side going, but it’s more than the here and now that City chiefs are concerned about.

Success at the Etihad is inspiring a new generation of fans. Kids who may have once turned to Manchester United and Liverpool are now choosing to adorn sky-blue jerseys. Admittedly, the 115 charges hanging over City could derail that impetus, but until an outcome emerges, United and Liverpool will know that the Blues are slowly chipping away at their status as England’s traditional powerhouses.

That wasn’t quite the view shared by Kyle Walker in December, however, when the City captain claimed the team were only in the ‘building blocks’ stage, and still lagged behind the great United and Liverpool sides. Five months on, the England international now feels that gap is closing.

“Of course we are, with each trophy we win and each major trophy we're going to be closer,” Walker explained. “Pep is now the manager who has won the most [league titles] except Sir Alex Ferguson, so we're building this dynasty and legacy that people will look on this team for generations to come.

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“When I first came here you saw a lot of United shirts and now you see a lot of kids wearing City shirts. We're swinging the pendulum but we need to keep going because the United and Liverpool teams did it for years and years. We're doing that now; long may it continue.”

The next challenge for City is an all-Manchester FA Cup final on Saturday. It’s the second year in a row that the clubs have met under the Wembley arch in the showpiece event. Last year, an Ilkay Gundogan double secured victory en route to prising away United’s status as the country’s only treble-winners.

This time around, City can do something their local rivals have never done and claim a second consecutive league and cup double. “They're all big,” Walker opined. “Last season they could have rained on our parade before we went to the Champions League final.

“If we had lost that game the mood and morale to pick ourselves up again and go to the Champions League final would be completely different. It's a trophy against your arch-rivals. It's a derby and it's going to be big because it's Manchester United - but if we were playing Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea everyone would still say it was big.

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“The motivation speaks for itself,” the full-back added. “To be the first team to do the double double, the first team to win four in a row, the first team since Manchester United to do the treble - we keep knocking down these hurdles and this is another that we need to knock down.

“But it's against our rivals who live in the same city. We need to make sure that we play the game we have been playing, particularly to the back end of this season.

“To go on the run that we went on when Arsenal were as they were is great credit to us and shows the enthusiasm and the work ethic is still there. We're still coming into training now and wanting to graft and work hard now to put the icing on the cake for the season.”

Skippering to success

In seven years at City, Walker will most probably reflect on the last 12 months as his most turbulent period. It began when he missed out on a starting berth in the Champions League final last June. “Someone was going to have to miss out,” the defender said when asked about that disappointment.

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“There can only be 11 on the pitch and it wasn't just me sat down. Riyad [Mahrez] missed the game, who was a fantastic part. You take it on the chin and you move on.”

Then followed a summer of speculation that saw him come close to joining Bayern Munich due to the looming scandal in his personal life that he knew would be earthed over the coming months.

“It was nothing to do with footballing reasons, it was something personal to me where I thought that taking a break from England might have been right for me,” Walker said on that near move to Germany. “But first and foremost I have to think about the football. It's what I love doing and I felt that come the end of it I would be a lot happier at Manchester City than I would at Bayern Munich.”

The 33-year-old ultimately chose to remain at City and was selected as club captain by his peers last summer. While it has been a mixed campaign performance-wise, Walker has been a mainstay in the team and Rodri and Phil Foden are the only City players to have made more starts or played more minutes than the ex-Tottenham Hotspur man this season.

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He’s made history already as City captain: “Four trophies in your first year of being captain would not be bad,” he remarked. “It [this season] has been hard. To come off such a high of winning the treble is difficult.

“We've set the bar so high and I don't think any of us will understand what we are achieving until we've finished football or it goes back to the norm, which I hope isn't very soon and while I'm at City. We have to appreciate times like this, individually and collectively. We're part of history and we want this to continue.”

That mentality has shown through this campaign, in a squad packed full of experienced winners. Even in the final game of 2023/24, Walker - who claims he has ‘more to give to the team’ over the next two years - is already thinking about next season and the challenges on offer.

“We'll go away after the FA Cup,” he said. “A lot of us are going to represent our country at the Euros or the Copa America and we'll do that with pride. After that, I hope we get some sort of a break because you do need to recharge, not even physically but mentally. 

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“But I can assure you when we come back here for pre-season it might take us a few days to get the cobwebs off but as soon as that first Premier League game comes we're straight back into motion and trying to defend our crown. Why can't we do five in a row?”

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