The English game has been lucky enough to house some of the best footballing brains that the sport has ever seen. From the likes of Brian Clough and Don Revie, to Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, the list is endless.
One of the best foreign imports of recent times has been Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, whose knowledge, understanding and passion has seen him become one of the greatest leaders to ever grace the game.
Pep’s plan for world domination knows no bounds; a two-time Champions League winner alongside a plethora of medals from his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich underlines his genius, especially with the ‘Tika-Taka’ style of play that he implemented along the way.
As we continue our build-up to this season’s Carabao Cup Final between holders Manchester City and challengers Tottenham Hotspur, here’s a look back at five standout finals that have shaped Guardiola’s legendary career as a manager.
2009 UEFA Champions League Final - Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United
Pep Guardiola’s managerial career started much in the same vein as his playing career, as he progressed through the ranks at Barcelona before taking the first-team hot seat.
His impressive work with Barcelona B gave President Joan Laporta the perfect replacement for Frank Rijkaard after he was relieved of his duties at the Nou Camp. Guardiola was not a soft touch, either, offloading players such as Deco, Ronaldinho and Gianluca Zambrotta.
After securing the Copa del Rey and the La Liga title in his first season, attention turned to the Champions League Final against Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico.
It was a true testament to Guardiola’s side just to make the Final, considering they had to go through the Qualifying Rounds just to make the Group Stages, but they were not there to make up numbers, seeing off European giants Bayern Munich and Chelsea in dramatic fashion en route.
Manchester United, managed by Sir Alex, were looking to keep hold of their Champions League crown after winning their third trophy the season before in a penalty shootout victory over Chelsea.
But Pep did not care for sentiment; his Barca side were relentless and hardly let United have a sustained passage of play, their much talked about pressing game in full flow and attacking outfit dialling in on Edwin van der Sar’s goal.
Strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi secured Barcelona’s treble and, in doing so, ensured that Guardiola became the youngest manager to lead a team to a Champions League success. He also became one of the few players in history to win the biggest competition in club football both as a player and a manager.
Not a bad way to kick off your managerial career!
2011 UEFA Champions League Final - Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
Barcelona and Guardiola continued to dominate Spanish football, winning most of the competitions that they could get their hands on, and alongside multiple victories against El Clasico rivals Real Madrid, things were getting better year-on-year.
Having crashed out of the Semi-Finals of the Champions League to Mourinho’s well-oiled Inter Milan - who would go on to take the crown off them that season - Barca were looking to make it two triumphs in three years in the competition.
They flew through the Group Stages, picking up 14 points from a possible 18 points before moving on to their Round of 16 fixture against Arsenal. There, a 4-3 aggregate win ensued over two legs, before they easily dispatched Shahktar Donetsk in the Quarter-Finals.
The magician that is Lionel Messi captured the hearts and minds of Barcelona supporters with his double at the Bernabeu, the 1-1 draw on home soil sealed their passage to Wembley.
Manchester United would again be the team they would have to overcome after they ran riot over two legs against Schalke 04. But again, Guardiola wasn’t fazed, and was confident of another victory, this time on English soil.
Goals from Pedro, Messi and David Villa made sure that the trophy would be on the plane back to Barcelona, their third triumph in six years and their fourth European crown in the bag.
2014 DFB-Pokal Final - Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Bayern Munich (AET)
Leaving a huge club like Barcelona is never an easy decision, but leaving them as the most successful manager in the club’s history probably softened the blow for Guardiola. Following a year out of the game, he was back.
German giants Bayern Munich were his new club and, like his first season at Barcelona, it was full of silverware - the Bavarians winning a quadruple consisting of the Bundesliga, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and the DFB-Pokal. It is the latter we’ll stick with here.
After finishing 19 points behind Bayern that season, Jurgen Klopp would have been hoping that his Borussia Dortmund side could have caught them on a bad day. Unfortunately for him, it did not play out that way.
Although the Final did not live up to expectations in the standard 90 minutes, things took off for Bayern in the second half of extra-time. Arjen Robben ghosted in at the back stick to give Guardiola’s team the breakthrough in the 107th minute, before Thomas Muller raced through to round Roman Weidenfeller and wrap up the win at the Olympiastadion.
2018 Carabao Cup Final - Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City
Guardiola’s contract with the Bavarian outfit expired at the end of the 2016/17 season, but we already knew where he was headed before the final game in Germany. He was, of course, swapping Munich for Manchester after signing a three-year deal with the Citizens.
His first season at the Etihad Stadium was certainly one to forget, as he finished that campaign trophy-less, but his fortunes turned around very quickly the season after, winning the Premier League in record-breaking fashion.
Pep and City were relentless in league action and managed to pick up 100 points on their way to the title, but before they were officially crowned champions of the Premier League, they had already been in a celebratory mood following their Carabao Cup victory over Arsenal earlier on that campaign.
After making their way through the rounds, City were pitted against an Arsenal side led by Frenchman and Premier League legend, Arsene Wenger.
Pep and his men weren’t waiting to hang around; his pressing and clinical style of play became the blueprint that season, and with the Gunners being given no chance to breathe, City ran away with things.
Sergio Aguero made it 1-0 after 18 minutes, before Vincent Kompany and David Silva put the game to bed in the second half at Wembley. It was a trophy that kicked off what remains an era of dominance in the Carabao Cup.
2020 Carabao Cup Final - Aston Villa 1-2 Manchester City
Now to his latest trophy, and although things may not have panned out particularly as he might have wanted in the Premier League last season, Guardiola made sure that his side made it three years on the bounce with another victory in the Carabao Cup Final.
After their first victory in 2019 against Arsenal, City followed it up with a penalty shoot-out win over Chelsea at Wembley to retain their title in this competition, and came back for a third bite of the cherry last season.
Guardiola’s men had to overcome rivals Manchester United in the Semi-Final, and after talking an impressive 3-1 lead back to the Etihad with them from Old Trafford, all things pointed to another City Final.
However, it was not as clear cut as Guardiola would have wanted; a first-half strike from Nemanja Matic gave United the impetus to press on and look for that all important aggregate equaliser. But, it wasn’t be for the red side of Manchester, with City holding out, bound for Wembley once again.
Aston Villa were the challengers this time around, after Trezeguet’s 93rd-minute winner sent Villa Park into raptures, and his side into the Final. Their jubilation was cut short on the big day, as two goals in 10 minutes from Aguero and Rodri respectively, set the Citizens on their way to their third win in as many years.
The Villans did give themselves a fighting chance just before half-time when Mbwana Samatta got himself on the scoresheet. However, City were too strong, and despite not adding to the scoreline in the remaining 45 minutes, notched yet another trophy win at Wembley to add to the collection.
Will it be four in a row for Pep in 2021, or will Mourinho storm the castle and come away with the crown?