History was made at Wembley as Manchester City became the first English men’s team to win a domestic treble, with club legend David Silva once more central to their success as Raheem Sterling ended the season with a hat-trick.
The man City fans call El Mago, the magician, scored the opening goal against Watford in the FA Cup final as Pep Guardiola’s men added the trophy to the EFL Cup and the Premier League title they beat Liverpool to last week.
It has been at times a strangely underwhelming campaign for David Silva, who has shown the first signs his influence is on the wane, with namesake Bernardo eclipsing him in the City midfield more often than not.
But as Watford threatened to play party poopers and upset the massive odds against them in the opening stages at Wembley it was the 33-year-old midfielder, often cited as the greatest player to wear City’s colours, who stayed calm to provide a decisive moment of cutting edge that settled his side’s nerves.
The game had appeared poised to descend into the scrappy affair Watford would no doubt have relished and their commitment and desire in the first 25 minutes had City looking rattled, the emphatic scoreline that equalled the record victory in an FA Cup final not reflecting this.
David Silva, though, has seen it all before. He collected a fourth Premier League winner’s medal this season and was instrumental in adding a second FA Cup to go with it, becoming only the second City player – after Yaya Toure – to score in both domestic cup finals for the club. The stirring ovation he received when making his way off as City’s final substitution showed how he is cherished by supporters.
With Heurelho Gomes typically chaotic on his Watford farewell, unless he reverses previously announced retirement plans, it was the other Brazilian goalkeeper on show who starred in the first act at Wembley.
Indeed, Watford should have opened the scoring, Javi Garcia’s counter-attacking tactics were played to perfection as semi-final hero Gerard Deulofeu led a rapid break. He slipped the perfect pass in behind Vincent Kompany but Ederson was rapidly off his line to narrow the angle and Roberto Pereyra was unable to squeeze his finish home. Few fluffed chances have ever been punished as clinically.
Ederson started the move that led to City’s first goal too, coming out of his penalty area this time to make a smartly judged headed clearance. From there Watford never regained control, Abdoulaye Doucoure hustled off the ball in his own half before David Silva and Raheem Sterling somehow won headers on the edge of the Hornets’ box.
David Silva’s first goal of 2019, which beat Gomes with the aid of a deflection off Kiko Femenia, could hardly have come at a better time and Bernardo Silva then came up with a moment of pure magic to open the door for City’s second.
Given too much space to advance in Watford’s half, Bernardo Silva’s stunning floated pass caught Gomes in no man’s land and allowed Gabriel Jesus – a surprise starter in place of the benched Sergio Aguero – to nudge the ball across the six-yard box for Sterling to slam home.
The result was never in doubt thereafter and City now stand side by side with some of the best teams in Premier League history.
Arsenal’s Invincibles went a whole league season without tasting defeat, while the treble won by bitter rivals Manchester United under Alex Ferguson included a Champions League title won in the most extraordinary circumstances against Bayern Munich at Camp Nou. City are undoubtedly in that company.
That Liverpool came so agonisingly close to denying City in the most relentless of title races is testament to the work Jurgen Klopp has undertaken at Anfield.
But City’s domestic dominance can surely now not be questioned. 198 points racked up over the course of two sensational seasons is a record-breaking run that only Guardiola’s side themselves are likely to match.
If such a phenomenal pace can be replicated next season then, regardless of City’s fortunes in the Champions League, it will be almost impossible to argue there has ever been a better team to grace the Premier League.
That Guardiola could send on substitute Kevin De Bruyne, the star of last season and in many ways David Silva’s heir at City, early in the second half to score their third and create the fourth for Jesus on the break, before Sterling claimed the match ball, showed their strength in depth.
David Silva’s time at the Etihad Stadium appears to be entering its twilight – his contract expires at the end of next season – but with the seemingly endless resources at their disposal, City are perfectly placed to continue to dominate even after his eventual departure.