Guardiola passes Sir Alex Ferguson for Champions League wins

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola reached a major managerial milestone this week after surpassing a Champions League record accrued by Manchester United great Sir Alex Ferguson.

In overseeing City’s 3-1 group stage win against RB Leipzig on Wednesday night, Guardiola racked up his 103rd career win in European football’s most prestigious competition — one more victory than Sir Alex amassed in total during his illustrious 26-year United tenure.

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Last season, Guardiola became only the third coach in Champions League history (after Ferguson and Carlo Ancelotti) to rack up a century of victories when his City side beat Real Madrid 4-0 in the second leg of the semifinal. Guardiola’s 101st win then came along as City overcame Internazionale in the final to secure a historical treble.

City’s defence of their European crown began with Guardiola earning his 102nd managerial victory with a comfortable 3-1 dispatching of Red Star Belgrade.

Requiring just one more win to overtake the former United manager, City scored twice in the last 10 minutes of their tie in Leipzig to deliver the goods, and that means only one coach in Champions League history has more total victories than Guardiola.

Ancelotti is out in front with 109 total wins, a tally that is almost certain to rise as Real Madrid side continue their flawless start to the 2023-24 Champions League campaign.

Guardiola has 30 Champions League victories with Barcelona, 23 with Bayern Munich, and now 50 with City — winning 103 of the 161 matches he’s overseen in the competition, lifting the trophy three times (twice with Barca, once with City.) By comparison, Ferguson took charge of 190 games and won the Champions League twice, and Ancelotti has taken charge of 193 so far, hoisting the trophy aloft a record four times as a manager.

Looking back over his impressive Champions League back catalogue, here’s a selection of some of the most memorable victories he’s masterminded.

The first of many

The 2008-09 season brought with it a new era for Barcelona with former B team coach Guardiola promoted to the top job. Despite being a managerial rookie to all intents and purposes, Guardiola led the Catalans to the treble in his debut year.

Having initially entered the Champions League through the qualifying rounds, Barca won their opening group game at a canter (3-1 versus Sporting CP) and proceeded to lose just once during the tournament proper as Pep’s highly drilled, stylish and effervescent team powered through to the final. The deal was then sealed at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome as Manchester United were beaten 2-0, with Lionel Messi even scoring a rare header.

Wembley wizardry

After being eliminated by Jose Mourinho’s dogged Inter over two legs in the 2009-10 semifinals, Guardiola regrouped. Sure enough, Barca roared back to win the Champions League again in 2010-11 in what proved to be Pep’s penultimate season in charge at Camp Nou.

Playing some of the most beautiful football ever witnessed, Barca were irresistible throughout. Manchester United were once again on the receiving end of a possession-based masterclass in the final at Wembley — a 3-1 victory so dominant that Sir Alex was moved to extoll Guardiola’s side as the best he’d ever faced.

Bayern on a roll

Guardiola never managed to win the Champions League with Bayern but he did reach the semifinals three times in his three years in Bavaria.

He tasted crushing disappointment in his first attempt, with old foes Real Madrid winning 4-0 at the Allianz Arena in the second leg to confirm their place in the final. In 2014-15, Bayern looked utterly ruthless from the outset, scoring freely throughout the early stages and even rampaging to a stunning 7-1 defeat of Roma in the group stage, and then serving up a 7-0 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk in the round of 16. It was all looking so promising for Pep until he came up against his old team, Barcelona, in the semis where a 3-0 first-leg defeat ultimately proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for the Bundesliga giants.

In 2015-16, Bayern again made the final four, where they would be eliminated on away goals by Atletico Madrid. Three semifinal exits, all to Spanish clubs.

Running riot against Real

A stellar performance that Guardiola himself acknowledged as his best in the Champions League, Manchester City knew they would need something special to oust Real Madrid in the semifinals of last season’s competition.

Sure enough, after earning a 1-1 draw in the first leg at the Bernabeu, City effortlessly cruised past Los Blancos at the Etihad as goals from Bernardo Silva (2), Manuel Akanji and Julián Álvarez swept them through to the final in style with a 4-0 win.

Completing the job in Istanbul

Of course it would be remiss not to mention the 2022-23 final, which saw City finally claim the prize they’d so eagerly been chasing for a decade or more. After eliminating RB Leipzig, Chelsea and Real Madrid in the knockouts, a single precious goal from Rodri was enough to beat Inter and see Guardiola deliver City’s first taste of continental glory since the 1969-70 European Cup Winners’ Cup — oh, and complete the treble.

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