Even with the riches and the trophies, there has always remained an element of self-depreciation to Manchester City’s support.
Each time they exit a competition, or fade away in a title race like last year, dry mirth rises from the wreckage.
‘Embarrassed by Lyon? Not bothered, we’ll always have the Carabao,’ or other slightly more colourful variations of that sentiment.
Manchester City have won the League Cup in each of the past three seasons and can make it four in a row when they play Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Sunday afternoon
Pep Guardiola has spoken out in favour of abolishing the competition to thin out the schedule but his team somehow always end up winning it
The competition is the least of the priorities for Guardiola and Sheikh Mansour but the City fans feel differently about it
City’s fanbase is aware that the League Cup lies bottom in the list of priorities. And they realise it’s viewed with snobbery from elsewhere.
Whether they remotely care is a different matter. Victory in this competition harks back to old City – the City before the billions. Their last trophy, won in 1976, before the takeover.
They will hope it is their first since feeling let down by their own board at the end of a week that has shaken football. City were last in, first out of the Super League but they were still in and that will not be forgotten.
There is a simplicity – a warm, familiar feel – to the secondary domestic trophy and a section of the support take great glee in rivals mocking their success in a cup nobody is supposed to care about.
The competition is a bit ordinary, is it? Well, City fans are brought up to feel a bit ordinary and wear that badge with pride.
Manchester City fans, pictured at last season’s final, have a real affinity with the League Cup
Pre-takeover in 2008, the League Cup was the last trophy City won – way back in 1976
Sunday’s final against Tottenham, could be the day they equal Liverpool’s records of eight titles and winning four of them consecutively. In turn, Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero would become the first players ever to lift it six times.
‘It’s about memories and tradition,’ former winger Dennis Tueart told Sportsmail. ‘It’s heart and soul. It’s important for supporters.’
Important for Tueart, too, the Sunderland fan who has lived in Cheshire for four decades and whose affinity with City was solidified by his stunning bicycle kick to beat Newcastle in the 1976 final.
‘We’d beaten Manchester United in the earlier rounds in the November that season,’ he said.
‘My wife and I went out to a big City restaurant in town afterwards. We got there at nearly 11pm and I got a standing ovation when we walked in. It was the first time I realised the value of being successful in the city of Manchester.
‘I’d scored two goals. I still hold the record for the fastest goal ever scored in a derby from that night, by the way. Thirty-five seconds.
Dennis Tueart scored a stunning overhead kick as City beat Newcastle United at Wembley
Peter Barnes scored City’s first goal that afternoon as they won the cup for the second time
League Cup wins
8 – Liverpool
7 – Man City
5 – Aston Villa, Man United, Chelsea
4 – Tottenham, Nottingham Forest
3 – Leicester
2 – Arsenal, Norwich, Birmingham, Wolves
1 – West Brom, Middlesbrough, QPR, Leeds, Stoke, Luton, Sheffield Wednesday, Swindon, Oxford, Blackburn, Swansea
‘I thought I was going to get beat the other week when United won a penalty really early on but by the time VAR got involved I was fine. Delighted!’
United are the only team to have beaten Pep Guardiola in the competition over five years but really, he would not lose sleep if it was scrapped – a stance taken on his crusade against the ballooning fixture schedule.
‘Eliminate competitions, take them out,’ he said before a semi-final last season. ‘So less games, less competitions, less teams, more quality, less quantity. People can live without football for a while. It’s too much.’
For City, it is the least important aspect of any season yet one they simultaneously hold so dear.
Guardiola can take or leave it at the start of every campaign, and doesn’t exactly go for it until the quarter-finals, yet is arriving at a fourth straight Wembley final, carefully managing their route.
Thirteen academy products have been awarded debuts in the early rounds by Guardiola. Phil Foden scored his first professional goal at Oxford United in September 2018.
Guardiola wants to progress but does also use it to have a look at who is emerging. The difference between him and some contemporaries is once the latter stages arrive, so do his main men.
Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne celebrate with the trophy at Wembley last year
Phil Foden celebrates scoring his first professional goal in the EFL Cup against Oxford
The most striking example of that came two years ago, when City eventually lifted an unprecedented domestic treble.
Aro Muric, the young Kosovan goalkeeper, had only conceded one goal in five games before the final – and the hero in the quarter-finals against Leicester – but found himself relegated to the bench for Ederson at Wembley as City beat Chelsea on penalties.
Generally, Guardiola selects half a team, with a smattering of fringe players, and does just enough to go through.
The Carabao Cup has also padded the Catalan’s trophy haul and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Six major pieces of silverware certainly sounds far more imposing than three.
Only Tottenham stand in the way of No 7 and, when he eventually retires in the hills of Barcelona, Guardiola will not be rocking there pondering why Arsenal or Liverpool played the kids in round three. He will be counting his medals.