By Martyn Herman
LONDON, June 3 (Reuters) – Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola urged his players to seize the opportunity of a lifetime after they beat arch-rivals Manchester United 2-1 in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Victory in the first-ever all-Manchester FA Cup final, secured by Ilkay Gundogan’s brace of volleyed goals, came hot on the heels of a fifth Premier League title in six seasons under the Spaniard.
Guardiola joined Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson as the only managers to win the English double more than once, having also achieved it in the 2018-19 season.
He and his relentless players can now achieve sporting immortality next Saturday in Istanbul against Inter Milan when City can be crowned European champions for the first time and match United’s 1998-99 still unique treble under Ferguson.
“One more to come, one more to go and we feel it that we are in a position we probably will never be again,” Guardiola, who has turned City into a domestic powerhouse since arriving in 2016, winning 11 trophies, told reporters.
“Everything will not be complete if we don’t win the Champions League now. We have done some incredible seasons.
“Premier League to FA Cup to League Cup, but we have to win the Champions League to be recognised how the team deserves to be recognised. We have to admit it, without the Champions League, it has been amazing and fun but we’ll miss it.
“We have to take our responsibility and we have to do it.”
FASTEST CUP FINAL GOAL
City were not even at their fluent best against United in Saturday’s Wembley showpiece in which Gundogan scored after 12 seconds — the fastest ever FA Cup final goal.
But they still had too much for a United side who levelled via a Bruno Fernandes penalty and pressed late on but could have few complaints about the final result.
Guardiola was tearful at the final whistle as he embraced his celebrating players. But he quickly re-focused on the bigger picture that is now looming large.
“To win the FA Cup the emotions are really special. Now is the first time I can talk about the treble… It is one game away,” said Guardiola, who led Barcelona to a treble of La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey in 2008-09.
“I’m thinking about what we have to do to beat Inter. I spoke with the players many times. Forget about it. Focus on what you need to do to beat Inter.”
The one cloud on the horizon for City is Gundogan’s potential move away from the Etihad Stadium this summer, possibly to Guardiola’s old club Barcelona.
German midfielder Gundogan, 32, remains an irreplaceable component in Guardiola’s squad and once again showed his knack of scoring crucial goals.
He also scored braces in vital Premier League wins over Everton and Leeds United as City relentlessly reeled in Arsenal over the final weeks of the season.
“What a season,” Guardiola said. “When he first arrived in Manchester the skills were there. But he has a special mentality.”
Asked about Gundogan’s future, Guardiola said: “(Football director) Txiki (Begiristain) is doing it. Hopefully he will be successful. I hope so.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Clare Fallon)