Man City and Argentina teammates Pablo Zabaleta (right) with Sergio Aguero (center) and Carlos Tevez after winning the 2011-12 Premier League title (Sharon Latham/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)
STATS & ANALYSIS

Pablo Zabaleta, Man City, and 10 Years of ’93:20′

The retired fullback recalls Sergio Aguero’s incredible stoppage-time winner against QPR to win the club’s first league title in 44 years.

After a long and distinguished playing career as a right back, including nine years as a starter for Manchester City from 2008-17 and more than a decade with the Argentina national team, the 37-year-old Pablo Zabaleta found himself at an event in March at a local New York City elementary school as part of his duties as a global ambassador for City Football Group.

Zabaleta starred for the club since Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour purchased it in 2008, and became an instrumental piece in the team’s ascent to its current golden age. He won five major trophies during his run there, but if you ask him about his favorite memory at Man City, he’s not about to hesitate for a second. 93:20.

It happened 10 years ago today, the climax of an unbelievably thrilling 3-2 win over Queens Park Rangers on a last-gasp goal by fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero in the fourth minute of stoppage time that gave Manchester’s Sky Blues their first title in England’s top flight in 44 long years.

“Every time you remember that moment, it’s simply amazing,” Zabaleta told Boardroom.

Zabaleta witnessed the moment that proved the club’s transformation was complete. And all told, he is very much part of the reason why City is the global juggernaut it is today.

“Ownership always had ambitions to take this club forward, to make this club bigger,” he said. “And they’ve always invested big money into the club to bring top players. That’s what you need at the end of the day to be successful in football.”

But let’s take you back to that day 10 years ago.

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United had won six Premier League titles since 2000 and were close to taking home a seventh. They had dominated this rivalry with City, but the “Noisy Neighbors” in blue had greatly improved since the ownership change. Tied with its crosstown arch-nemeses on 86 points on the last day of the 2011-12 season, Man City held a tiebreaker with a goal differential of eight.

That meant a win at home over lowly QPR would seal its first top division title since 1968, while Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils needed to win at Sunderland and get a little help. To amp up the drama, the games were being played simultaneously.

“We were playing at home in front of our home fans and we needed to win that game,” Zabaleta said.

After Wayne Rooney scored in the 20th minute for United at the Stadium of Light — a strike that ended up being the game’s lone goal — the pressure was squarely on City to finally best big brother. In the 39th minute, Zabaleta ran toward the goal and lofted the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net to give City a 1-0 lead to a deafening roar from the home crowd. But an errant back pass gifted to QPR’s Djibril Cissé allowed the Frenchman to rifle the ball into the back of the net past Joe Hart to tie the game in the 48th minute.

After Rangers’ Joey Barton was shown a straight red card in the 55th minute, the opportunity was there for the taking for City up a man with 35-plus minutes to play. But just 11 minutes later, the Blues improbably went down 2-1 on a Jamie Mackie header. With the final whistle imminent at Sunderland with United on top, City needed two goals in six minutes of stoppage time to take the title.

“They had already won their game and were celebrating,” Zabaleta said.

But City had hope after a David Silva corner kick was headed in by center forward Edin Dzeko in the second minute of added time, giving them four minutes to seize their first championship in more than four decades in what match radio announcer Peter Drury called “the most thrilling Premier League finale of all time.”

After that, we witnessed the most single most famous, staggering goal in the history of the Premier League.

Sergio Aguero’s breathtaking tally sealed the title for Zabaleta and City, who have won four Premier League championships in this current era and are close to winning a fifth (and second in a row). It all started 10 years ago today, in one of the most stunning finishes you’ll ever see in any sport.

“You could really see the Man United faces,” Zabaleta said. “They couldn’t believe it that we scored two goals in three minutes.”

All the pent-up hope and energy from 45 years of waiting spilled out at the Etihad Stadium as their boys in blue had finally done it. Zabaleta hoisted another Premier League trophy in 2014, adding to a collection that included an FA Cup and two EFL Cup crowns. From the field to the dressing room to the training ground, he had helped usher in the most successful run this club has ever had.

But nothing, he says, could have compared to that incredible May day precisely 10 years ago.

“It was a special end to the season,” he said, “and every time we talk about that moment, it makes me feel very proud.”

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