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Comparing the Trebles: Manchester City vs Manchester United

Pep Guardiola led his Manchester City team to Champions League glory in Istanbul on 10th June 2023 and in the process, his side became only the second in English football history to complete the treble. Just to be clear, by “the treble” we mean a team has won the Premier League, the FA Cup and the Champions League in the same season. And the only other team to have completed this tortuously difficult feat was City’s near neighbours, Manchester United.

The Red Devils won their historic treble back in the 1998/99 season under the guidance of the great Alex Ferguson. But though the red side of Manchester got in first, it doesn’t mean their achievement was necessarily greater. So let’s take a look at how the two sides won their three competitions and attempt to answer the question: whose treble was better, Man City’s or Man United’s?

The Squads

Before we take a look at the three elements of each side’s treble, let’s first run through the main players in the squads that achieved the feat.


Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
Alex Ferguson Pep Guardiola


Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
Peter Schmeichel Ederson
Raimond van der Gouw Stefan Ortega


Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
Gary Neville Kyle Walker
Denis Irwin Ruben Dias
Jaap Stam John Stones
Phil Neville Nathan Ake
David May Manuel Akanji
Wes Brown João Cancelo
Ronny Johnsen Aymeric Laporte


Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
David Beckham İlkay Gündoğan
Nicky Butt Jack Grealish
Ryan Giggs Rodri
Roy Keane Kevin De Bruyne
Paul Scholes Bernardo Silva
Jesper Blomqvist Phil Foden
Kalvin Phillips
Cole Palmer


Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
Andy Cole Erling Haaland
Teddy Sheringham Julián Álvarez
Ole Gunnar Solskjær Riyad Mahrez
Dwight Yorke

As you can see, both squads were blessed with plenty of talent, but overall you’ve got to say that the options at City’s disposal are almost ludicrously good. Whether that lessens their achievement is a matter of opinion. But it would certainly be a fascinating match to see the 1998/99 Man United side go up against the current crop of Man City stars. Roy Keane would certainly relish the battle against the likes of Grealish and Foden.

Premier League

Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
Played 38 38
Points 79 89
Won 22 28
Drew 13 5
Lost 3 5
Goals Scored 80 94
Goal Difference +43 +61
Margin of Victory 1 point (from Arsenal) 5 points (from Arsenal)

On the face of things, Manchester City’s Premier League performance of 2022/23 was more impressive than Manchester United’s of 1998/99. They won significantly more games (28 to 22) and scored 94 goals to United’s 80. The Red Devils did lose fewer games (three to City’s five), but they drew 13 matches and hence earned 10 fewer points than the Citizens.

Of course, how well you perform in a given league campaign is influenced by how good the opposition of the day happens to be. Arsenal had a very good campaign in 2022/23 and amassed an impressive total of 85 points. This compares to a total of just 78 points when they played second fiddle to the Red Devils in 1998/98.

On balance, the teams in the more recent season are better equipped to challenge for the title than some of those United faced in the late 1990s. After all, Leeds United finished fourth in 1998/99 (behind third-placed Chelsea), with West Ham fifth and Aston Villa in sixth. Derby County and Middlesbrough – hardly powerhouses even then – also finished in the top 10.

Fast forward to 2022/23 and Man United, a newly rich Newcastle United and Liverpool finished in third, fourth and fifth. Although, to be fair, relatively small clubs Brighton and Villa finished in the next two positions. Overall though, given the extra money in the game these days, it was probably easier to win the Premier League back in the 1990s, and hence City’s achievement looks more impressive than United’s on the league front.

FA Cup

So the league gives Man City the early advantage, but could that change by looking at the sides’ respective runs to FA Cup glory?

Manchester United 1998/99

Round Opponent Result
Third Middlesbrough (H) 3-1 Win
Fourth Liverpool (H) 2-1 Win
Fifth Fulham (H) 1-0 Win
Quarter-Final Chelsea (H) 0-0 Draw
Quarter-Final Replay Chelsea (A) 2-0 Win
Semi-Final Arsenal (N) 0-0 Draw
Semi-Final Replay Arsenal (N) 2-1 Win (AET)
Final Newcastle United (N) 2-0 Win

Manchester City 2022/23

Round Manchester United (1998/99) Manchester City (2022/23)
Third Chelsea (H) 4-0 Win
Fourth Arsenal (H) 1-0 Win
Fifth Bristol City (A) 3-0 Win
Quarter-Final Burnley (H) 6-0 Win
Semi-Final Sheffield United (N) 3-0 Win
Final Manchester United (N) 2-1 Win

Comparing the relevant FA Cup victories of the Manchester clubs is tricky. Both sides faced tough opposition both in the early rounds and in the final itself. Given that Man United had to overcome five Premier League teams to win their cup, compared to City’s three, we would argue that the Red Devils had a slightly trickier run.

Interestingly, both sides beat both Arsenal and Chelsea on their way to lifting the cup. In 1998/99, the London clubs both finished in the top three, but in 2022/23, Chelsea ended the season in the bottom half. On the other hand, City had the tougher final when they faced Man United themselves (who finished third in the Premier League), whereas United faced Newcastle in the 1998/99 final after the Magpies finished down in 13th position in the table. With City scoring more goals in their cup run, we’re going to say this one is slightly too close to call, so it’s a draw.

Champions League

So let’s see if Man City can claim to have completed the better treble, or whether Man United can claw it back.

Manchester United 1998/99

Round Opponent Result
2nd Qualifying Leg 1 LKS Lodz (H) 2-0 Win
2nd Qualifying Leg 2 LKS Lodz (A) 0-0 Draw
Groups 1 Barcelona (H) 3-3 Draw
Groups 2 Bayern Munich (A) 2-2 Draw
Groups 3 Brondby (A) 6-2 Win
Groups 4 Brondby (H) 5-0 Win
Groups 5 Barcelona (A) 3-3 Draw
Groups 6 Bayern Munich (H) 1-1 Draw
Quarter-Final Leg 1 Inter Milan (H) 2-0 Win
Quarter-Final Leg 2 Inter Milan (A) 1-1 Draw
Semi-Final Leg 1 Juventus (H) 1-1 Draw
Semi-Final Leg 2 Juventus (A) 3-2 Win
Final Bayern Munich (N) 2-1 Win

Manchester City 2022/23

Round Opponent Result
Groups 1 Sevilla (A) 4-0 Win
Groups 2 Borussia Dortmund (H) 2-1 Win
Groups 3 Copenhagen (H) 5-0 Win
Groups 4 Copenhagen (A) 0-0 Draw
Groups 5 Borussia Dortmund (A) 0-0 Draw
Groups 6 Sevilla (H) 3-1 Win
Round of 16 Leg 1 RB Leipzig (A) 1-1 Draw
Round of 16 Leg 2 RB Leipzig (H) 7-0 Win
Quarter-Final Leg 1 Bayern Munich (H) 3-0 Win
Quarter-Final Leg 2 Bayern Munich (A) 1-1 Draw
Semi-Final Leg 1 Real Madrid (A) 1-1 Draw
Semi-Final Leg 2 Real Madrid (H) 4-0 Win
Final Inter Milan (N) 1-0 Win
  • Manchester United scored 31 goals in 12 games (2.58 per game)
  • Manchester City scored 32 goals in 13 games (2.46 per game)

It’s hard not to be impressed by both Manchester clubs when it comes to how they won their Champions Leagues in their treble years. Both overcame former European champions, both hammered in plenty of goals and both went through their whole tournament unbeaten.

Attempting to split these worthy winners by suggesting that either United or City performed better than the other on the way to landing the Champions League is no easy task. But, based on the shear drama of their comeback triumphs against an exceptional Juventus in the semi final second leg and then, of course, the injury time fightback in the final against Bayern Munich, we have to give it Man United and Alex Ferguson.

There is no doubt that Man City were worthy winners of their Champions League, and their demolition of Real Madrid in the semi final second leg in Manchester was sublime. But the final lacked a certain something and although we’re not taking anything away from Guardiola and his team, we think Man United’s road to European glory was, frankly, better.

So, Whose Treble Was Better?

Having looked at the three elements of the trebles won by Manchester United and Manchester City, where do we end up? In other words, whose treble was better? Based on a rather subjective assessment of the league, FA Cup and Champions League triumphs of the two sides, we have to suggest there is very little between them.

City certainly edge it when it comes to their highly impressive Premier League victory. But United’s Champions League campaign contained just that little bit more pizazz in terms of the drama and the enduring narrative. And given there’s little between them on the FA Cup front, we’re tempted to call it a score draw in terms of their relative trebles.