As a hint to the scale of their achievement, this was the first defeat in 26 games in all competitions for Pep Guardiola’s side. “Can we play you every week?” was the delighted chant from the home supporters at the final whistle. It was not entirely ironic.
What makes the double all the more remarkable is the gap between the two clubs’ bottom lines. City have got to within two games of the treble through the shrewd application of the riches of Croesus.
Brentford’s playing budget is roughly on a par with the annual bill for valeting the City first-team squad’s motors. Yet here they were not just outsmarting their betters, but becoming the only club this season to deny them any league points at all, in the process securing their highest league finish.
For sure, it helped that, with the title won and the FA Cup and Champions League finals to come, Guardiola rested most of his big hitters.
Before kick-off the Brentford players formed a guard of honour for the domestic champions. As they passed through it, Cole Palmer, Sergio Gomez, Kalvin Phillips and Rico Lewis looked a little confused as to what they had done to deserve it. Still, this was a visiting side that cost nearly a quarter of a billion pounds to assemble.
They would do well to listen to the City manager’s analysis. He was full of compliments for Thomas Frank’s side afterwards, suggesting that when it comes to threatening set-pieces, they are the Premier League’s “best team by far”.
“But it is not just that,” he added. “How quickly they play, how aggressive, the unity of the club: it is exceptional. Hopefully next season we can do better. To beat them, we have a target already.”
It begins, Brentford’s tactical game, from the back. If United, for instance, wanted to borrow anything from observing this win, their goalkeeper, David de Gea, would struggle to match his countryman David Raya’s ability with the ball at his feet.
“He is like a holding midfielder,” Guardiola reckoned. That is true, his passing forward is quick, sharp, accurate. No wonder the home crowd chanted how much they wanted him to stay.
No wonder Tottenham are so keen to sign him. Frank also has at his disposal a defence prepared to throw itself into every challenge. The lead was preserved by three successive clearances off the line.
Everywhere they press, everywhere they scrap for possession. But Guardiola was right, it is the set-piece where they really master.
Long throws, steepling corners, fierce, arcing free-kicks: the City defenders can rarely have faced such a consistent aerial assault. Although not sparked by a set-piece, the winning goal came from relentless bombardment into the box.
“We top-performed in two games,” Frank said of how he beat City twice. “It is very clear you need to defend very well. But also you need to press high up with energy. Set-pieces also are very important.” That is the Brentford way. Whether United or Inter have the team to play like that, however, is another question.