Manchester City have made history by becoming only the fifth club in 135 years of English league football to win three championships in a row.
For Pep Guardiola it means joining a very exclusive list of managers to have built Triple title teams; Herbert Chapman, Bob Paisley and Sir Alex Ferguson.
While there has always been hype surrounding City in the Champions League, the league is still considered within the game as the ultimate challenge.
To be the best over 38 or 42 games is special and to repeat that consistency over 114 or 126 matches, truly remarkable. Hence its rarity value.
Mail Sport looks at the other outstanding sides who defined their era by winning the league championship again, and again.
And next season, Guardiola and City could stand alone. In the world’s most competitive division, nobody has ever won four on the bounce.
THE THREE-TIME CHAMPIONS
Managers: Herbert Chapman, Cecil Potter
Key players: George ‘Bomber’ Brown, Bily Smith, Clem Stephenson
Huddersfield was regarded as a rugby league town until Herbert Chapman breezed through the door in 1921.
‘The father of management,’ is how his biographer Patrick Barclay describes the miner’s son from Kiveton Park who changed English football.
Chapman was an innovator, on and off the pitch. He was the first to recognise stopping goals was as important as scoring and adapted the traditional 2-3-5 to add a third centre-half.
He brought a new professionalism, many decades later George Graham studied his methods, and both spotted and invested in talent. There was disbelief when he spent £4,000 on a single player, Clem Stephenson, but the inside-forward became his influential captain.
‘I don’t want you to run. I want you to distribute the ball,’ were the manager’s instructions to his on-field general.
In 1923-24, Huddersfield became champions for the first time, pipping Cardiff City on goal average.
They beat Nottingham Forest 3-0 in their final game but the crowd wouldn’t leave until they heard news from Cardiff’s game at Birmingham. Chapman had a telephone glued to his ear in the office. When the match ended 0-0, he burst through the doors and shouted: ‘We’ve won.’
1924/25 saw Huddersfield finish two points clear of West Brom but Chapman then resigned to join Arsenal, spotting the potential of having a successful club in London.
Terriers fans needed have worried. No2 Cecil Potter took over and the transition was seamless with George ‘Bomber’ Brown scoring 35 goals.
‘Herbert had built the foundations so well, the club didn’t crumble after he left,’ says Barclay. Exactly the same was to happen at Arsenal the following decade.
Managers: Herbert Chapman, Joe Shaw, George Allison
Key players: Cliff Bastin, Ted Drake, David Jack, Alex James
‘He saw the tube station bringing hordes of fans to the stadium and had this vision of creating the first super-club,’ says author Patrick Barclay about Chapman’s decision to join Arsenal. And that’s precisely how it transpired.
No team south of Birmingham had been champions until Chapman led Arsenal to the prize in 1931. Two years later, they won it again to spark their three-in-a-row.
He had more celebrated players than at Huddersfield, internationals Cliff Bastin, Alex James, Eddie Hapgood, Joe Hulme and David Jack among them, but what made Arsenal stand out was their manager’s ability to think differently.
He introduced white sleeves to Arsenal’s red kit so the players could see identify each other more quickly passing the ball. He instigated Gillespie Road underground station changing its name to Arsenal.
He championed shirt numbers, international club games and floodlights. ‘Way ahead of his time,’ adds Barclay.
Tragically, Chapman’s dedication caused his death in January 1934, aged 55, when he caught pneumonia watching the youth team to rest.
A shellshocked Arsenal played later that day, a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. Hulme only discovered the news on a billboard outside Highbury.
Once again, Chapman’s organisational skills served his club well after his own departure. Joe Shaw took over for the second half of the season to secure a second title and then George Allison completed the hat-trick with Ted Drake scoring 42.
A bust of Chapman stood in the marble halls of Highbury, a mark of gratitude and respect.
Managers: Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan
Key men: Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Ian Rush, Graeme Souness
Despite Liverpool’s famed European exploits, the message before the start of every season was clear. ‘Winning the championship over 42 games was always considered the pinnacle,’ reveals local midfielder Sammy Lee.
Liverpool’s Scottish contingent of Dalglish, Hansen and Souness were at their peak. Mark Lawrenson to form a great defensive partnership with Hansen while Ian Rush teamed up with Dalglish in attack.
Paisley was reticent compared to his predecessor Bill Shankly but chose the outgoing Souness to be captain and deliver messages on the pitch. ‘I was the right age and prepared to offer an opinion up,’ said the tigerish midfielder.
Liverpool were 10th in November 1981 but the introduction of three points for a win that season enabled them to swallow the ground up on rivals and finish four clear of Bobby Robson’s Ipswich.
Rush’s 24 goals saw Liverpool win the 1982/83 title by 11 points but there were question-marks when Paisley resigned that summer with assistant Joe Fagan taking his place.
‘Liverpool had great strength in the Boot Room (their famed coaches room),’ explained Lee. ‘We went from Bill Shankly to Bob and then to Joe without as much turbulence you’d expect.’
The club won three trophies in ‘83/84 and became the first to achieve a hat-trick of championships for nearly 50 years. It also represented the end of an era with Souness leaving at the end of the season for Sampdoria.
MANCHESTER UNITED (1999-2001)
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson
Key players: David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes
The irony is that after United’s historic Treble in 1999, they got even better despite losing their great goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.
After pipping Arsenal by a single point on the final day in 1998/99. they won the league the following season by a massive 18 points, and then 10 to complete the hat-trick.
The Class of ‘92 Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes were still relatively inexperienced when United enjoyed their ‘99 clean sweep, by the time of the new Millennium, they were unstoppable.
Sir Alex Ferguson also managed to produce the perfect midfield blend of Beckham, Keane, Scholes and Giggs; the crosser, the tackler, the passer and the dribbler.
‘The best midfield quartet I’ve ever seen play football,’ according to Gary Neville. ‘They were out of this world as a unit because of their quality on the ball – and their work-rate off it.’
It begs the question how many points would United have amassed in 1999/2000 if they’d replaced Schmeichel properly.
That season, Mark Bosnich and Raimon van de Gouw shared the No1 jersey with a disastrous cameo from Massimo Taibi, and United still collected 91 points. World Cup winner Fabien Barthez was enlisted for the following campaign.
Some of United’s football was breathtaking during this period with Fergie’s 4-4-2 made more flexible by Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke being able to drop deep, Giggs and Beckham to work inside and full-backs Gary Neville and Denis Irwin to get forward.
In February 2001, United thrashed their closest challengers Arsenal 6-1 at Old Trafford with Yorke claiming a hat-trick. That is how superior they were.
MANCHESTER UNITED (2007-09)
Manager: Sir Alex Ferguson
Key players: Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Edwin van der Sar ppl
Whereas Fergie’s first Triple team was built around a formidable midfield, his second was laden with attacking stardust.
For a period, the front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez was the best in the world – and in the summer of 2008 they were added to by Dimitar Berbatov arriving from Tottenham.
It hadn’t been an easy transition breaking up the Treble team. Roy Keane was forced out in dramatic circumstances and star striker Ruud van Nistelrooy came and left as Ferguson opted for building a new team around the Ferdinand-Vidic axis at the back, and the flair of Ronaldo and Rooney.
United’s title win in 2006/07 followed two years of dominance by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and the following season, Fergie’s new team won the Premier League and Champions League.
Ronaldo scored 42 goals to win the Ballon d’or. ‘I had four world-class players in my time at United – Cantona, Giggs, Ronaldo and Scholes,’ said Ferguson. ‘And of them, Cristiano was the ornament on the top of a Christmas tree.’
Ronaldo wanted to leave United for Real Madrid in the summer of 2008. Ferguson blocked it, claiming he wouldn’t ‘sell them a virus’ – but privately they agreed to let him leave a further 12 months down the line.
Hence 2008/09 saw United carry arguably the most glittering attacking quartet in their history though it was a much younger, unheralded striker who ultimately proved the key to a third consecutive title.
17-year-old Federico Macheda scored late back-to-back winners against Aston Villa and Sunderland to ensure United finished the season four points clear of Liverpool.