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Whose Treble Win Was Better – Manchester City or Manchester United?

Manchester City followed Manchester United into the history books with their treble win. But which one was the best?

Only two clubs in the history of the English game have landed a treble win. And both of them hail from Manchester.

Back in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United team landed the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the space of a few days.

Then this past year, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City confirmed their victories in the same three competitions. Although those wins took place over several weeks.

Fans of both those teams, and many others, are already arguing over which treble win was the best.

So let’s take a look at the facts and stats to see if we can answer the question:

Whose Treble Win Was Better, City of United’s?

To do that, let’s compare the two squads of each team for their Treble Winning Season:

Treble Winning Squads

Manchester United 1998/99VManchester City 2022/23
Pos.PlayerTran. FeePosPlayerTran.Fee
GKPeter Schmeichel£505,000 GKEderson£35m
DRGary Neville£0 DRKyle Walker£45m
DLDenis Irwin£625,000 DLRRico Lewis£0
DCDavid May£1.2m DCRuben Dias£62m
DCRonny Johnsen£1.2m DRLNathan Ake£40m
DCJaap Stam£10.6m DCJohn Stones£47.5m
MRDavid Beckham£0 DMCRodri£62.8m
MCNicky Butt£0 MCKalvin Phillips£42m
ACAndy Cole£7m ACErling Haaland£51.2m
ACTeddy Sheringham£3.5m AMLPhil Foden£0
MLRyan Giggs£0 MLCBernardo Silva£43.5m
DRLPhil Neville£0 DCAymeric Laporte£57m
DRCJohn Curtis£0 GKStefan Ortega£0
AMLJordi Cruyff£1.4m DLCManuel Akanji£15m
AMRJesper Blomquist£4.4m MCIlkay Gundogan£20m
MCRoy Keane£3.75m MRCKevin de Bruyne£54.5m
GKRai. Van der Gouw£500,000 DRCSergio Gomez£11m
MCPaul Scholes£0 MCMaximo Perrone£8.2m
ACDwight Yorke£12.6m AMLCole Palmer£0
ACOle Gunnar Solskjaer£1.5m AMRJack Grealish£100m
DRCHenning Berg£5m AMLRiyad Mahrez£60m
ACErik Nevland£400,000 ACJulian Alvarez£14.1m
DRCWes Brown£0 GKScott Carson£0
MRCJonathan Greening£500,000    
ManSir Alex Ferguson  ManPep Guardiola 
Total Spend£54.68m Total Spend£768.8m

Of course, we cannot compare the two spends until we have adjusted the amounts for inflation. But even then if we take the prices United paid for players as being in 1998, that totals just over £99m in 2023.

So, if we look at the cost to club per the three trophies they won:

  • Each trophy cost 1999 Manchester United £33m in transfer fees at 2023 rates.
  • Each trophy cost Manchester City £256.27m in transfer fees at 2023 rates.

However, that actual number should be worse for City. A number of players that they have spent big money on (Zack Steffen, Joao Cancelo, Benjamin Mendy) are not included in the figures above.

At modest estimates, the trio would add an estimated £90m to £100m to that transfer fee total.

That would make City’s spend per trophy closer to £300m.

Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, Manchester United come out on top in terms of value for money they got from their squad.

Although it should be remembered that the exceptional Class of ’92 played a key role in their success in 1998 to 1999. Not one of those players cost United a penny in transfer fees.

Let’s now continue to compare the two Manchester giants based on their performances in each of the three tournaments they won.

Premier League Comparison

Manchester United 1999VManchester City 2023
38Games Played38
80Goals Scored94
37Goals Conceded33
+43Goal Difference+61
Nottm For 1-8 Man UtdBiggest WinMan City 6-0 Nottm Forest
3-0 v Arsenal (A)Biggest Defeat2-1 v Man Utd (A), Brentford (H)
Dwight Yorke (18)Leading GoalscorerErling Haaland (36)
Beckham, Yorke (11)Leading AssistsKevin de Bruyne (16)
13Defensive Clean Sheets13
Gary Neville (RB), Jaap Stam (DC), Denis Irwin (DL), David Beckham (MR), Dwight Yorke (AC) – 5PFA Team of the Year PicksN/A (announced 29th August)
PL POTS – Dwight Yorke, PL MOTS – Alex FergusonAwardsN/A (announced 29th August)
55,188Average Attendance53,249

It is worth noting that United finished just one point ahead of Arsenal in the league in 1999, while Man City finished five points clear of Arsenal.

That despite picking up just one point from their last two games.

City also scored 14 more goals and conceded four fewer. They also had the same number of clean sheets as that Manchester United team.

We are not sure how many City players will make it into the PFA Team of the Year or if any will win individual awards. These are now not announced until the start of the new season in August.

However, it would be astonishing if a number of City players are not selected.

In fact, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Rodri, Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Grealish, Ilkay Gundogan and Erling Haaland all stand a very good chance of being included.

FA Cup Comparison

Manchester United 1999VManchester City 2023
Man Utd 3-1 Middlesbrough3rd RoundMan City 4-0 Chelsea
Man Utd 2-1 Liverpool4th RoundMan City 1-0 Arsenal
Man Utd 1-0 Fulham5th RoundBristol City 0-3 Man City
Man Utd 0-0 ChelseaQuarter FinalsMan City 6-0 Burnley
Chelsea 0-2 Man UtdQuarter Final ReplayN/A
Arsenal 0-0 Man UtdSemi Final (N)Man City 3-0 Sheff Utd
Man Utd 2-1 ArsenalSemi Final Replay (N)N/A
Man Utd 2-0 Newcastle UtdFinal (N)Man City 2-1 Man Utd
12Goals Scored19
3Goals Conceded1
Dwight Yorke (3)Leading GoalscorerRiyad Mahrez (5)

City conceded just one goal in winning the FA Cup, ironically conceded in the final against United, who conceded three in their success in 1999.

Both teams had a tough run to the final with United probably having the tougher run facing Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and then Newcastle in the final. City also faced Chelsea and Arsenal and then faced United in the final.

Champions League Comparison

Manchester United 1999VManchester City 2023
Man Utd 2-0 LKS LodzQualifying 1st LegN/A
LKS Lodz 0-0 Man UtdQualifying 2nd LegN/A
Man Utd 3-3 BarcelonaGroup Stage 1Sevilla 0-4 Man City
Bayern Munich 2-2 Man UtdGroup Stage 2Man City 2-1 B.Dortmund
Brondby 2-6 Man UtdGroup Stage 3Man City 5-0 Copenhagen
Man Utd 5-0 BrondbyGroup Stage 4Copenhagen 0-0 Man City
Barcelona 3-3 Man UtdGroup Stage 5B.Dortmind 0-0 Man City
Man Utd 1-1 Bayern MunichGroup Stage 6Man City 3-1 Sevilla
N/ARound of 16 1RB Leipzig 1-1 Man City
N/ARound of 16 2Man City 7-0 RB Leipzig
Man Utd 2-0 InterQuarter Finals 1stMan City 3-0 Bayern Munich
Inter 1-1 Man UtdQuarter Finals 2ndBayern Munich 1-1 Man City
Man Utd 1-1 JuventusSemi Finals 1stReal Madrid 1-1 Man City
Juventus 2-3 Man UtdSemi Finals 2ndMan City 4-0 Real Madrid
Bayern Munich 1-2 Man UtdFinal (N)Man City 1-0 Inter
13CL Games Played13
31Goals Scored32
16Goals Conceded5
+15Goal Difference+27
Dwight Yorke (8)Leading ScorerErling Haaland (12)

United’s last gasp success against Bayern Munich in the final was against the run of play in that game but the two legendary late goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned things around and handed United a surprise win.

City though were always favourites to win the tournament from the off and proved it. Incredibly, conceding a scarcely believable 5 goals across all their group stage and knockout phase games.

Both teams came through tough games to win their respective tournaments and so it is hard to judge which one of these was the better.

The Verdict?

Both treble win are incredible achievements and it is difficult to decide which one is better.

City’s was more spectacular in terms of the quality of play, but they did spend a huge amount to get that and took a long time to win the Champions League.

United’s was more dramatic, especially in the CL Final and final day of the PL season, but they spent a lot less, and don’t have 115 breaches of financial fair play hanging over them.

So until those issues are resolved, I’d have to say that United’s treble success is the better of the two.

Though that would change if City are exonerated from those charges.

Ian John

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