LONDON • Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been doing his best to keep a lid on the hoopla surrounding his rampant charges, but even he could not have expected to hear the first mention of the word "quadruple" as early as before Christmas.
After his second-string side battled into the League Cup semi-finals on Tuesday with a 4-3 shoot-out win at Leicester following a 1-1 draw after extra time, the Spaniard was asked if his team could win four trophies this season.
Guardiola's withering look said it all despite extending his side's unbeaten domestic run to 27 matches.
"Forget about it. That is not going to happen," he told Sky Sports in a manner that brooked no argument.
"Come on, that isn't real. What we're living isn't real. The situation of winning 16 or 17 games in a row in the league and qualifying for the Champions League before we finished the group stage and now we're here playing with a lot of young players, that is not normal.
"In football, you drop points and you lose competitions. I am not thinking about how many titles, I am thinking about the next game."
Guardiola may not want to sound over-confident, but the dazzling way his team are playing continues to make the fanciful seem possible.
The Premier League, which they lead by 11 points, already looks wrapped up, while City are now in the last four of a competition they are looking to win for the third time in five seasons at Wembley in February.
If they keep playing the brand of football that has looked the most scintillating in Europe, then triumphs in the Champions League and FA Cup do not seem outlandish possibilities either.
City's hierarchy certainly believes it is possible, with chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak having in the close season broached the possibility of winning the quadruple.
He did not employ a manager who once won six trophies in a season at Barcelona without sky-high, sky blue expectations.
On Tuesday's evidence, what must delight Guardiola as much as the breathtaking stuff being played by his A-listers is that he appears to be blooding a new generation imbued with toughness as well as real quality who can slot in seamlessly if needed.
Bernardo Silva put City ahead before Jamie Vardy equalised with what looked a harshly awarded penalty in the seventh minute of added time. After extra time, City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo saved the key Riyad Mahrez penalty to earn the shoot-out victory.
"A lot of young players played. I am so happy for all the players. They showed me very good things," added the manager.
In a strange incident in the second half, a fan tried to confront the 46-year-old in his technical area, only for stewards to intervene and prevent the supporter, who lost his footing, from making contact with the City manager.
"I think he wanted my shirt," said Guardiola. "I was safe. Maybe next time he needs to wear better shoes."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN