Cup treble can save Manchester City’s season: Richard Buxton
FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League within Citizens' reach
If this is what failure looks like, Manchester City must be football's greatest losers.
The "fourmidables" may have to settle for a hat-trick of trophies after a cruising 3-1 win over Manchester United in their League Cup semi-final, first leg yesterday morning (Singapore time).
All season long, Pep Guardiola has been forced to concede on a near-weekly basis that the reigning English Premier League champions cannot catch runaway leaders Liverpool in a title race which became a foregone conclusion before this new decade had even begun.
Yet the consolation prizes are hardly ones to be sniffed at.
Scoring three goals at Old Trafford may not be adequate payback for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side denting their rivals' increasingly faint title bid last month, but it was a start.
Unlike his opposite number, Guardiola's preference to pioneer, rather than pivot into nostalgia, led to another revolutionary move at the Theatre of Dreams.
He fielded a starting line-up entirely devoid of a recognised centre-forward. Midfield again became the new attack.
Anyone scoffing at the Catalan's deployment of the false No. 9 system was left eating their words as it ripped United apart in an encounter which, at times, bordered on the inhumane.
In lieu of the benched Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne treated Old Trafford like their own personal playground; dancing through the hosts' defence at will and shooting on sight, with the Portugal international's thunderbolt in the 17th minute a particular highlight.
Silva and Riyad Mahrez left the pitch at the interval laughing in disbelief that the only flag that United had kept flying high during the first half was a white one instead of red.
Solskjaer's "cultural reboot" again proved to be doublespeak for maintaining the status quo.
Not too long ago, "pride in battle" was the mantra which hung from every corner at the Etihad Stadium.
The Red Devils could benefit from following their local rivals' lead for a change.
Face is the only thing realistically worth salvaging from what remains of this tie.
At least one major trophy will almost certainly have Manchester's sky-blue grip on it come the end of May.
Even in a season where supremacy has been superseded by the downright erratic, City still possess the quality and guile to flourish in one-off fixtures such as the League Cup.
Guardiola's marginal lowering of his lofty expectations has served as a springboard.
City can strive for everything else that is still attainable; be it a top-four finish in the EPL or silverware in three major tournaments.
With their two-time Champions League-winning manager, Europe's elite club competition remains the unconquered last frontier; an unedifying blemish on an otherwise glittering honour roll.
Much as they heckle their anthem Blue Moon, City supporters would love nothing more than to see their club finally crowned champions of the continent.
It is the one that continually gets away; the object which will define their status as footballing royalty or just money-soaked pretenders.
Snatching it away from Liverpool might also offer a semblance of compensation for the impending role-reversal set to take place in the EPL's upper echelons in four months.
Guardiola half-joked that last season's top two should consider swopping their respective trophies.
If City maintain their current momentum, there will be no need for compromise.
De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Jones, Williams, Pereira, Fred, James (Gomes 64), Lingard (Matic 46), Rashford, Greenwood (Martial 81)
Bravo, Walker, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Mendy, de Bruyne (Jesus 80), Rodri, Guendogan, Mahrez (Foden 86), Silva, Sterling