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Manchester City can be great after one season

There are 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers and 295 episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. Doesn’t make it funnier, though, the longevity. Nobody quotes Foggy and Compo the way they do Basil and Sybil.

It is 42 years since a severely concussed Torquay hotelier told his staff not to mention the war and the phrase remains part of the nation’s vocabulary.

Commercials are still made parodying scenes from a show almost half a century old without a syllable of explanation and everyone gets the joke. 

Pep Guardiola has led his Manchester City team to the top of the table in the Premier League

Pep Guardiola has led his Manchester City team to the top of the table in the Premier League

Pep Guardiola has led his Manchester City team to the top of the table in the Premier League

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Last of the Summer Wine did it longer and more often but it wasn’t as good. Neither was M*A*S*H, neither was Friends. Only one measure counts in the world of art or culture: the work.

It does not matter that Vincent van Gogh couldn’t sell a painting in his lifetime or that Jackson Pollock’s creative peak lasts little more than three years. There is no rulebook governing greatness.

Robert Johnson’s entire recorded output amounts to 29 songs, including alternate takes, most of which were recorded in three days in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. No matter. Nobody had ever played the guitar like it and, once Johnson was done, the instrument never sounded the same again. 

City have shown how good they are and have been able to consistently perform at a high level

City have shown how good they are and have been able to consistently perform at a high level

City have shown how good they are and have been able to consistently perform at a high level

It is possible to capture and achieve lasting greatness in a fleeting moment, just as it is possible for Manchester City to be a great team in only one season.

Gary Neville is wrong. Those who wish to define sport as boxes to be ticked — win title, retain title — have missed the point. Yes, a period of dominance is one signifier, but not the only one.

If Manchester City continue to play as they have this season, if they win the league by March as they are on course to do, if they break the 100-point barrier, if they usurp the points per game aggregate of even Preston’s Invincibles from the Victorian age, are we to pretend this is not yet a great team, because of the potential for some random set of circumstances as yet unknown? That is ridiculous.

If The Beatles had made one record and it was The White Album they would still be a great band; if the Velvet Underground had made one record and it was The Velvet Underground and Nico, they would still have changed music. And if DJ Pierre had done nothing other than modulate the frequency and resonance controls in the bass patterns of a Roland TB-303, he would still have invented acid house.

And that’s what City are doing; they’re inventing acid house. There was dance music before, but it never sounded like that. And there have been great football teams before Pep Guardiola’s City — but few of us, not even those who witnessed Liverpool’s European Cup winners, Manchester United’s treble winners or Arsenal’s Invincibles, can remember too many quite like this. 

Gary Neville is wrong, Manchester City can be great after just one outstanding season

Gary Neville is wrong, Manchester City can be great after just one outstanding season

Gary Neville is wrong, Manchester City can be great after just one outstanding season

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