Manchester City have greatness within their grasp and their victory over Everton on Sunday demonstrated why they are on the verge of an incredible Treble.
It is easy to say that a team has a winning mindset without really analysing what that means, but City’s performance at Goodison Park was a perfect illustration of what it takes to achieve their level of success.
I was a bit shocked when I saw that Pep Guardiola had only made one change to the back four that faced Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday – Aymeric Laporte came in for John Stones.
I think that showed how much Guardiola respected Everton’s form, but also how much he trusted the players he selected – not just in their physical shape, but in their mental state – in the middle of a crucial week of their season. One of the hardest things in football is to play a huge game and then go straight into another one that, on paper, is much less important.
City did that when they went from playing at the Bernabeu, in a massive game between two of the best teams in the world that was watched by millions, to a Sunday afternoon at Goodison Park against a team fighting relegation.
First of all, Goodison doesn’t have the same glamour, but more importantly there was also the danger that, given Everton’s league position, some City players would think they could just show up and win easily.
That didn’t happen because of the professionalism of the team, with everyone doing their part defensively when needed, and at the centre of it all was a solid back four.
So, when I talk about a player’s winning mindset, I am talking about Manuel Akanji treating Alex Iwobi with the same respect he did to Rodrygo, and Kyle Walker dealing with Dwight McNeil as if he was as good as Vinicius Junior.
It was the same with the attitude of forwards Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden, who were left out against Real then came back in on Sunday.
They didn’t moan or look like they were unhappy about missing the big game, instead they knew they had a role to play and did everything – which included Foden tracking back in the second half to win a vital defensive header at the far post.
That’s the mindset you need to win trophies. You need the ability to win games too, of course – through creativity and goals – but you also need the mindset and the physicality to compete on so many fronts every season, like City do.
Most of their players went to the World Cup before Christmas but they all look so strong and, fitness-wise, it is as if they are peaking at exactly the right time.
After watching them on Sunday, I think they all deserve praise. There are so many individuals in City’s squad that you could praise, but it is the whole team that makes them special. The Premier League, and a fifth title in six seasons, is almost secured. One more win against Chelsea, Brighton or Brentford will seal it, so now it’s really just a matter of what else City will win – and who can stop them.
It will take an extraordinary performance from Real to end their Treble dreams at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday and the same goes for the FA Cup final against Manchester United.
These teams don’t just have to find a way of stopping City, they have to try to score against them too.