Liverpool, Man United, Leicester, Spurs and even Watford benefit as we re-allocate City’s 17 trophies

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates a win Credit: Alamy
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp celebrates a win Credit: Alamy

We had great fun last year with a counterfactual that stripped away all Chelsea’s pots and pans of the Abramovich era after it turned out he might not have been the altruistic good guy we all thought he was.

So we’re not about to let the opportunity pass to do precisely the same thing to Manchester City after the recent very surprising information about the motivations and methods of what we’d all previously assumed to just be some friendly football-loving rich guys who’d bankrolled their decade of dominance.

At least with City we don’t have any European titles to untangle, but you’ll be pleased to know that hasn’t made our methods any less subjective as we set about re-allocating all their post-2009 silverware with thorough and dispassionate academic rigour except for the times we really want a different specific outcome for our own reasons. Enjoy.


2010/11 FA Cup
City’s first ill-gotten gain of the Abu Dhabi era came with victory over Stoke City at Wembley in the 2011 FA Cup final. Let’s rewrite history. City’s run started with needing a replay to get past Championship Leicester, so it’s the Foxes who take their place in round four where they, like City, get past League One Notts County at the second attempt having been held to a draw at Meadow Lane.

But that’s where the fun ends for Leicester, sadly, as they go down to top-flight Aston Villa in the last 16. Villa then land City’s plum draw in the quarter-finals against the only non-Premier League side left in the competition, Reading. From there it’s a semi-final against Manchester United for the Villans, and the first opportunity to use real-world results to pretend this guff is in some way scientific or in any way valid. United took four points off Villa in 2010/11, so it is they who progress to face Stoke at Wembley. United beat Stoke home and away in the league and thus the first but not the last City bauble makes its way across the city to their hated local rivals.
New winners: Manchester United


2011/12 Premier League
“Agueroooo! I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again. So watch it, drink it in… wait a minute. What’s this? There’s a VAR check apparently and yes, it looks like City’s sponsorship deals are a toenail offside there. It’s cruel for City, but all we can ask for is correct decisions. The goal and indeed the entire season-long battle to create this scenario and with it perhaps the most memorably single moment in the entire history of the Premier League are now struck not just from the record but from existence itself. Manchester United are Premier League champions again.”

Not everything about this brave new City-less world is going to be better. We haven’t even got to Gerrard’s slip yet.
New winners: Manchester United


2012 Community Shield
Right, at this point we have a decision to make. Is our City-less Premier League Universe (PLU) the same one where we’ve already nabbed all Chelsea’s trophies? Or is it a whole other new PLU? Can Chelsea get new trophies here? That doesn’t seem right, but we’re also not entirely sure we can be bothered cross-referencing everything we do here against not one but two alternative versions of reality, only one of which is actual reality. We’ve got our limits.

So what we’re probably going to do is just any time we find ourselves potentially awarding a trophy to Chelsea simply go with any other option available. Ergo, new 2012 Premier League champions Manchester United take the Community Shield. It’s up to you whether they beat actual 2012 FA Cup winners or alternative PLU 1 FA Cup winners Liverpool in the Traditional Season Curtain-Raiser.
New winners: Manchester United


2013/14 Capital One Cup
Fun one, this. In the real world, Wigan got a 5-0 spanking in round three. In our world, Wigan get a bye to round four, but here they fall to Newcastle, who again get the better of second-tier opposition in the form of Leicester in the last eight. That sets up a lovely semi-final between Newcastle and West Ham. Their league games that season give us a perfect template for a two-legged semi-final, and a goalless draw at St James’ Park would appear to give the Hammers the edge, but in January of that season Newcastle went to Upton Park or the Boleyn Ground or whatever they were calling it then and won 3-1.

And that means we’ve got a Capital One final with narrative out the wazoo as Newcastle take on Manchester City’s real-world victims Sunderland. And Sunderland beat Newcastle home and away that season, ergo…
New winners: Sunderland


2013/14 Premier League
City’s malfeasance really does rob of us some iconic moments. We’ve already lost the most dramatic moment of Premier League title history with AGUERRRROOOOOO after-timed out of existence, and now we lose the funniest moment of Premier League title history with Gerrard’s Slip now just a footnote as Brendan Rodgers’ brilliant side buckle and swash their way to Premier League glory to end that long wait for another league title.

And they get to celebrate in front of their fans rather than on Zoom, while Gerrard’s storied playing career gets the missing piece that allows him to leave the game satisfied and without the need to spend his post-playing career desperately trying to manoeuvre his way into the Liverpool manager’s job. So this is also good news for Aston Villa.
New winners: Liverpool


2015/16 Capital One Cup
There’s a lot of Capital Ones and Carabaos to go round in this City-free world, a world which is very similar to the world without lawyers that Lionel Hutz imagines in The Simpsons.

The 2014 winners Sunderland benefit again from City’s vanishing, with a 4-1 third-round thrashing now obliterated as they go through to face Palace in the last 16. With four points against Palace that season, Sunderland move on again to the last eight and further success against Championship side Hull. That puts the Black Cats into a semi-final against Everton and it’s a thriller to be fair.

Using as we must their league games for that season as the fairest possible guide, Everton appear to have the tie wrapped up after a 6-2 November win at Goodison but end up holding on grimly for a 6-5 aggregate win after Sunderland’s 3-0 win at the Stadium of Light.

A stone-cold classic and it again sets us up with an absolute doozy of a local derby final between Everton and Liverpool which, obviously, Liverpool win on the basis that the Goodison clash between the two ended in its traditional draw while Liverpool secured their equally traditional Anfield victory.
New winners: Liverpool


2017/18 Carabao Cup
West Brom benefit to the tune of third-round walkover and fourth-round victory with City no longer around, but they come unstuck against Leicester in the last eight. The Foxes get the better of Championship side Bristol City over two legs to reach the final against Arsenal.

In real life, City gave Arsenal a 3-0 schooling at Wembley. In this reality it’s a tough one to call with Arsenal and Leicester both picking up victories over the other during the course of the season. Arsenal’s was by a single goal, however, and in August. Leicester’s 3-1 win in May is clearly the more relevant here, so two years after their fairytale league triumph Leicester also now have a Carabao on the mantlepiece. A great story.
New winners: Leicester


2017/18 Premier League
This is one we fully expect to see claimed in real life by the new Premier League-winning manager. Because that new Premier League-winning manager is Jose Mourinho, who was already weirdly proud of his achievement in finishing 19 points behind Man City and will hardly be quiet about it now.

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

If Roma-covering journalists aren’t already preparing to ask him about his 2018 Premier League win at his next press conference then we honestly don’t know what is going on because the world needs those quotes.

Mourinho’s side only just squeak home, though. In the actual table they finished four points clear of Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham, but Jose’s United were daft enough to collect three of those points against City. Spurs on the other hand, unlike more recent times, were not so silly as to constantly pick up meaningless points that don’t count against Manchester City. They got righteously spangled home and away which leaves them just a point behind the new champions. Typical Spurs.
New winners: Manchester United


2018 Community Shield
Another crossing of the streams in the Chelsea-less and City-less PLUs. In real life, City won the 2018 title and Chelsea the 2018 FA Cup. In our different but only very, very debatably better world, United actually did the double. So that means their Community Shield clash is in fact now against Spurs, who are now the 2018 Premier League runners-up. With us? Good.

Now this could be a tricky one to dish out but luckily the 2018 Community Shield took place in August 2018 and the fixture computer was kind enough to give us a Manchester United v Tottenham fixture in that very month. Seems obvious that this must be the basis for our decision-making here, anything else would be mere pointless guesswork and we’ll have none of that here.

What’s fun about this is that Spurs won that league game at Old Trafford 3-0, so they’ve won the Community Shield without actually winning a trophy. Imagine the debate that would cause about what exactly constitutes a ‘major trophy’ and then remember that actually none of that matters because in this universe Spurs have already won the 2016/17 Premier League title. Starting to think that maybe we should just keep City and Chelsea to be honest.
New winners: Tottenham


2018/19 Carabao Cup
So very many Carabaos. League One Oxford are our recipients of a third-round bye before Fulham sort them out in round four. Next up is Leicester, who took four points off Fulham in the league and thus ease through to the semi-finals here. League One Burton Albion suffer much the same fate against Leicester as they did against City, although probably without the 9-0 bit.

Leicester, who are proving to be unlikely beneficiaries of this new world, go on to face Chelsea in the final. Luckily (for us) we don’t even need to worry about whether Chelsea exist or not because it’s Leicester’s cup anyway. They took four points off a Chelsea team that no longer exists and we’re not going to tie ourselves up in metaphysical quandaries about the merits of that. We’re simply going to congratulate the Foxes on yet another piece of silverware.
New winners: Leicester


2018/19 Premier League
Once we accept the obviously correct position that stripping all City’s honours from 2008-2018 also requires by definition the loss of all subsequent ones until and unless a real world reset wipes the slate clean, then this becomes the easiest of all to reallocate.

It is, quite obviously, Liverpool. We shouldn’t really need to go into too much detail about why it’s Liverpool. They finished one point behind Manchester City and a genuinely ludicrous 27 points clear of anyone else. You can tinker round the edges all you want, you can even criticise our unimpeachably scientific process in some of these decisions if you absolutely must, but this is Liverpool’s title.
New winners: Liverpool


2018/19 FA Cup
Watford were the obliging Wembley victims as City completed the first and yet now non-existent domestic treble. It’s fitting really, because absolutely nobody really talked about it at the time because they didn’t do the Quadruple and that’s all anyone cares about now. Wiping the one and only domestic treble in English football history out of existence feels like it’s something that should cause more of a ripple in the fabric of the game than this. Ah well.

Given Watford wait in the final, it’s surely all eyes on City’s path to see who gets their hands on the grand old trophy now (SPOILER: No it isn’t) with Rotherham reprieved in round three after shipping seven at the Etihad. They go out in round four to Premier League side Burnley, themselves now able to wipe a 5-0 defeat from the record books, with League Two Newport also falling victim to Sean Dyche’s team in the last 16.

On the established basis that Premier League teams always beat Championship teams in the FA Cup, Burnley then sort out Swansea to reach the last four. That sets up an unlikely semi-final against Brighton, and an even unlikelier place in the final for Burnley who took all six points off the Seagulls in the league that season.

And so it’s Burnley v Watford in the most Championship Play-Off Final-looking FA Cup final of the last 40 years and bugger me sideways if it isn’t Watford, with their four points against Burnley, who saunter off with the big prize.
New winners: Watford


2019 Community Shield
It’s Premier League champs Liverpool against FA Cup winners Watford now, so this is easy enough surely? Let’s apply a veneer of rigour, though. Liverpool and Watford met twice in 2019, once in February and once in December and thus roughly equidistant from their hypothetical Wembley curtain raiser in August. Liverpool won those games 5-0 and 2-0, so with pinpoint scientific accuracy we can split the difference and deduce that Liverpool would definitely have won the Community Shield clash 3.5-0.
New winners: Liverpool


2019/20 Carabao Cup
Not another one. Let’s rattle through it. Preston now go through from round three, Southampton go through from round four, and then beat Oxford in the last eight while we question every single life choice that led us to this moment for the second time. Southampton then face Manchester United in the two-legged semi-final and here we hit a snag. Both league games ended all-square, 1-1 at St Mary’s and 2-2 at Old Trafford. Away goals are of no value here, so what can we do?

We must, with some reluctance, head to the league table and give it to third-place United over the mid-table Saints. We’re not happy with this messy way of doing things when we’ve been so careful and precise elsewhere, but hey ho.

United obviously beat Villa in the final. We don’t need science for that. We did worry a bit when we saw a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford but luckily United turned them over 3-0 at Villa Park so that’s sorted.
New winners: Manchester United


2020/21 Carabao Cup
Those who remember the time we wrote 3000 words just to retrospectively award Spurs the 2016/17 Premier League title might have thought we’d be above doing the same thing just to try and get Ryan Mason a Carabao. Well those people don’t know us very well at all. Of course that’s precisely what we’ve done.

We’ll not bother going through too much rigmarole here, we’ve already decided the outcome. Let’s not get too bogged down in City’s now illegitimate route to the final and who takes their place; they beat Manchester United over two legs in the semis, and it’s reasonable enough to assume United would have taken care of anyone else who came along at that point. “But then is it not reasonable to think United also have too much for Ryan Mason’s Spurs in the final?” Haha you might make that argument given United ended the season second and Spurs ended it seventh but you’d be horribly, embarrassingly wrong.

This was, after all, the season when Spurs won 6-1 at Old Trafford. You can’t just ignore form-lines like that. And that was with boring old misery meme Mourinho in charge, rather than a likeable 29-year-old former midfielder in charge of his second game. Spurs win this handily because if there’s one thing we know about Spurs it’s that they are good at winning trophies.
New winners: Tottenham


2020/21 Premier League
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Premier League-winning manager. Despite finishing 12 points adrift of City and foolishly picking up four of their 74 points against the now ex-champions, United still finish clear of Liverpool whose disastrous season spent shambling about the place without a defender in sight now at least comes with the consolation prize of finishing second in the Premier League as well as second in the Champions League. What team wouldn’t be happy to finish second to such fine folks as Manchester United and Real Madrid in this shiny new world we’ve created where problematic hated clubs never win anything?
New winners: Manchester United


2021/22 Premier League
Not quite as straightforward as 2019, but not far off. Liverpool have always been City’s most conspicuous victims given the nature of the Klopp-Guardiola rivalry and this was another Premier League season where it was those two, daylight, and then a sorry bunch of stragglers fighting in undignified manner for minor placings and European spots.

Liverpool were once again a solitary point behind the now disgraced City, and while the gap to third-place Chelsea was a bit smaller this time around it was still 18 points. It’s still a heck of a lot.

And so there it is. Manchester United and Liverpool both add three Premier League titles to their collection now City don’t exist, which is pleasing for doing absolutely nothing to shift the needle on their battle for all-time supremacy. Leicester get a couple of Carabaos, while there’s also justice for Ryan Mason and Watford’s FA Cup win is a nice touch.
New winners: Liverpool

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