Ranking every big league Quadruple as Manchester United eye their own slice of history
Manchester United’s Carabao success has prompted all manner of daft Quadruple talk and we’re honest enough with ourselves to acknowledge that while we think that’s a daftness we’ll cheerfully hoover up any clicks we can get from combining the words ‘Manchester United’ and ‘quadruple’ before they f*** it up against West Ham tonight.
But there are two issues here. First and most obviously, they are not going to do a quadruple. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a statement of fact. Quadruples – proper ones – pretty much never happen.
But that brings us to point two. United’s wouldn’t even be The Quadruple, substituting as it does the Champions League for the Europa League. But if United were to somehow overcome the 150/1 odds and add Europa, FA Cup and Premier League success to that sweet Carabao nectar then it would certainly be A Quadruple, containing as it does four actual proper tournaments that carry a degree of prestige and require a proper amount of winning. There’s no ‘Super’ Cup one-game-and-win-a-trophy shortcuts in play here.
Which then set us to thinking: which is the best Quadruple that has actually happened? We’ve allowed all manner of bullshit pots into this, but we have limited ourselves to Europe’s top five leagues for our own sanity.
Unfortunately, that does mean no place for Celtic, whose 1966/67 Quintuple contains all the proper ingredients (European Cup, league title, Scottish Cup, Scottish League Cup) as well as a Glasgow Cup which, given the nature of Scottish fitba, is at least as good as a League Cup probably. But if we included them, we’d have gone down a long, arduous yet inevitable road that leads directly to Linfield’s 1961/62 Septuple and madness. So we haven’t. Soz.
11) Copa del Rey, Supercopa de Espana, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup (Barcelona 2011/12)
A Quadruple containing neither European nor domestic league glory? F*** all the way off, you cheeky scamps. You’re trying to pull a fast one here and I’ll not have it. Quadruple? Notruple more like.
10) La Liga, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa de Espana (Barcelona 2009/10)
This was Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at the peak of their powers and an indisputably great side, no doubt about that. They don’t need a Quadruple to prove it. Which is just as well, because this is still firmly tinpot territory. We’ll give you La Liga, obviously, especially after losing just once all season and still only edging out Real Madrid by three points in an epic tussle. But the rule that any cup containing the word ‘Super’ is bobbins is immutable and in play twice here.
The UEFA and Spanish Super Cups are both two-team low-wattage affairs (albeit the Spanish version is played over two legs) and not really major titles. The FIFA Club World Cup may have slightly more teams, but we all know it amounts in the end to the old Intercontinental clash between the European and South American champs. Barca started the season with six titles up for grabs, but missed out in the Copa del Rey to Sevilla in the last 16 and to Jose Mourinho’s party-pooping Inter in the Champions League semi-finals.
9) Bundesliga, DFL-Supercup, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup (Bayern Munich 2020/21)
It must be quite nice to be able to go “This is the worst Quadruple we’ve ever won”. The inherent implications can only augur well. This is the worst Quadruple Bayern Munich have ever won.
8) Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup (Bayern Munich 2013/14)
And this is the second worst. A far better one in 2012/13 before opened the Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup doors, gifts that were duly accepted. In accordance with tradition, Guangzhou Evergrande were beaten en route to World Cup glory, while penalties were needed to exact a measure of revenge on Chelsea for the 2012 Champions League final in the UEFA Super Cup. But Bayern were thrashed in the Champions League semi-finals by Real Madrid and sloppily passed up the DFB-Supercup right at the start of the season with a defeat to old rivals Dortmund.
7) Premier League, FIFA Club World Cup, Football League Cup, FA Community Shield (Manchester United 2008/09)
Don’t hear as much about this as you do the 1999 Treble, do you? Even though four is definitely more than three. Can’t think why this is less venerated. Not every day you beat Gamba Osaka and Quito to land the Club World Cup. Or beat Portsmouth on penalties to win the Community Shield. You can stick That Night in Barcelona up your arse, quite frankly.
6) Ligue 1, Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue, Trophee des Champions (Paris St Germain 2014/15, 2015/16, 2017/18, 2019/20)
Scores bonus points I guess for the fact they’ve done this particular quadruple four times since replacing Lyon as French football’s dominant force. No arguing with the neatness of that. Very funny that it conspicuously and obviously contains no European title whatsoever, but three of the four are at least actual competitions containing multiple matches and more than two entrants.
The Trophee des Champions sounds much better than ‘Community Shield’ and less deceptively bombastic than ‘Super Cup’ but amounts to the same thing. It’s just a glorified friendly between league winners and cup winners, and PSG have won nine of the last 10 of the buggers. This is a Quadruple built around a Domestic Treble and therefore not too tinpot, but inevitably loses some points because farmers.
5) La Liga, Copa del Rey, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup (Barcelona 2015/16)
A Proper Domestic Double is a high-quality cornerstone of any respectable Quadruple, and Barcelona tick that box in style here, putting a three-game April wobble behind them to win their last five league games by an absurd aggregate score of 24-0 to pip Real Madrid by a point. Sevilla were beaten in extra-time for Copa del Rey glory, but alas it then goes once more into the realm of the tinpot. Athletic Bilbao offered minimal Supercopa resistance, while Guangzhou Evergrande and River Plate were sorted out with little fuss in the Club World Cup. The Champions League bid came a cropper against eventual finalists and domestic rivals Atletico Madrid in the last eight.
4) Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup, Supercopa de Espana (Real Madrid 2017/18)
Yes, another Champions League for Real Madrid. Nice one, Loris Karius is crying. The rest of it: tish and fipsy. Alright, so the Supercopa was against Barcelona, but it’s still a fancy two-legged friendly. Al-Jazira and Gremio were dispatched in the Club World Cup and Manchester United in the UEFA Super Cup. Real also finished second behind actual Tottenham in the Champions League group stage, and third in La Liga. Utter frauds.
3) Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup, FA Community Shield (Manchester City 2018/19)
This is one of our favourite Quadruples. Because it highlights the absolute folly of it all. The whole Quadruple obsession vaguely reminds us of the razor blade wars when Gillette and Wilkinson Sword would constantly set out to one up each other by just adding blade after unnecessary blade. The Mach 3 was definitely enough, guys.
And that brings us to Manchester City’s 2018/19 season, in which their Champions League hopes collided with the unstoppable chaotic banter force of Spurs with inevitable consequences, but they did complete an unprecedented English Domestic Treble. An achievement Sir Alex Ferguson had declared impossible, rightly acknowledging the League Cup is far harder to win than the Champions League. But here’s the thing: nobody cared.
And, sure, a lot of that was because it’s City and people in general still don’t care about City the way they do United or Liverpool or even Arsenal. But it wasn’t entirely that. Quadruple obsession had rendered Trebles meh. Ludicrous. Still, though. Whack in the good ol’ Community Shield, and you have a Quadruple. And with three proper pots in a league where that never happens it remains one of the better ones. And you can’t really blame anyone for coming off second best to Spurs.
2) La Liga, Champions League, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup (Real Madrid 2016/17)
Were it not for an extremely careless Copa del Rey quarter-final defeat over two legs to Celta Vigo, this would be challenging for top spot. The league title was snaffled after a typically forthright to and fro with Clasico rivals Barcelona, while a slightly scruffy Champions League group stage featuring three draws on their way to second place behind Dortmund was put right in a dominant march through the knockouts. Classic Real Madrid Champions Leaguing, really. They know their way around a UCL knockout tie better than most. Napoli and Bayern were beaten home and away in the last 16 and quarter-finals, while a 2-1 second leg defeat to Atletico mattered not a jot with a 3-0 lead in the bag from the first. On to the final in Cardiff, and a 4-1 shellacking for Juventus. It is the history of the etc.
Super Cup and Club World Cup formalities were also completed along the way, although extra time was required against both Sevilla in the former and Kashima Antlers in the latter. The Antlers were only in the tournament at all as J-League champions because Japan were hosts, but defied the odds to make it all the way to extra-time in the final, beating Auckland City, Mamelodi Sundowns and most notably Copa Libertadores champions Atletico Nacional (thanks in part to the first penalty ever awarded by VAR) along the way.
1) Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, Champions League, DFL-Supercup (Bayern Munich 2012/13)
There is no Carabao equivalent in Germany, so this does have to go down as a largely unimprovable effort for Bayern, for whom a Quadruple featuring no tinpottery whatsoever is thus impossible. Won all three major pots in some style, breaking all manner of records on their way to a ludicrous 25-point victory margin in the Bundesliga and winning their six DFB-Pokal games by a combined aggregate of 20-2. Arsenal gave them an almighty scare in the Champions League last 16, winning 2-0 in Munich after a 3-1 Bayern win at the Emirates appeared to have put the tie to bed three weeks earlier. Sauntered past supposed European superpowers Juventus and Barcelona by scoring 11 goals and conceding none before outlasting Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund at Wembley to take the Big Cup.
We don’t want to get into the hypothetical, but it does seem pretty reasonable to assume this team that lost just once to a German side (2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen in October) all season long may well have won a German League Cup were there such a thing to be won.
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