At the end of the 1960s, a little over 50 years ago, Manchester City made history by winning its second English title. The achievement crowned Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison as important figures in City history, but also their squad, eternalised in the hearts and minds of City fans.
The team began its path in the second division and fought its way to the top of English football, while always displaying a technical, elegant, and offensive playing style.
Rising to the Top
Before this, during the interwar period, City had already become one of the most expressive teams in Manchester and one of the most consistent in the country with one championship title, several top-five finishes and three FA Cup finals under their belt. This period was one of the most successful of the club, which is only comparable to City’s modern-day dominance. After a series of impressive years asserting their dominance at the top of the tables, Manchester City are continuing on with their victorious streak, according to the Premier League outright football betting odds. They’re currently priced as the favourites to win the Premier League with odds of 8/11 and it’s doubtful that they could be thrown off course by other contenders.
Of course, the Manchester City of yesteryear boasted the ultimate dream team. With Ken Mulhearn under the goalposts, Tony Book and Glyn Pardoe on the sides, and George Heslop and Mike Doyle in central defence, City had a solid structure at the back. Leading the attack there were equally competent players, such as Francis Lee, Mike Summerbee, Neil Young or Tony Coleman, while Alan Oakes and Colin Bell, who has recently been compared to Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva, played ahead of the defence and projected the team forward.
City kicked off the 1967/68 season hesitantly, tying at home with Liverpool and then losing against Southampton and Stoke City. However, they bounced back with five consecutive victories, four of them at Maine Road, including a 2-0 over Nottingham Forest, runner-up of the previous season. Nonetheless, this positive run was followed by three defeats, one of them against United at home (2-1). Later, on October 14th, after a 2-0 home win over Wolverhampton, the Citizens began an undefeated 11-game streak, which included a 6-0 victory over Leicester and a magnificent performance against Tottenham (4-1), that has been nicknamed ‘Ballet on Ice’.
The good streak made them title contenders alongside Manchester United, who were the big favourites two win a back-to-back championship title.
City first took the lead of the league in early 1968, after six wins and a draw in the first seven league games in the new year. However, after losing to Leeds in the following match, United took the lead once again. Four days later, the Citizens had a real chance of reclaiming their place at the top of the table, as they faced their rivals at Old Trafford. It was now or never. In front of its largest audience of the season, City took matters into their own hands a comfortably beat United, 3-1, with goals from Bell, Heslop and Lee.
The decisive date, however, was May 11th, when the two Manchester teams faced northeast teams: City visited St. James’ Park to face Newcastle, while United hosted Sunderland. The Citizens only needed to win to secure the title and while Newcastle did score three goals, in the end, they secured the result and won 4-3, crowning them champions.
At the end of the season, City’s attack was the second-best in the championship, with 86 goals scored and the fourth-best defence, with 43 goals conceded (only three more than Liverpool and Everton and two more than Leeds).
Ultimately, City’s 1967/68 season will forever be remembered by English football fans as one of the most competitive and entertaining ever. On the other hand, Manchester United fans are more likely to look back at the season with a mix of happiness and sadness as they won their first European Cup and became the first English team to win the competition but lost what could have been their second back-to-back League One title.