When England goalkeeper Karen Bardsley signed for City in November 2013, she put a lot of faith into her newly-professional Club. Here, she discusses her journey from the moment she put pen to paper to the day she became a league and cup double winner and Champions League quarter-finalist…
"It’s been exciting. We had an idea when we first came to the Club of what we’d like to achieve in our first three years and we’ve gone above and beyond. There’s a lot more to come – we haven’t reached our full potential yet, and it’s exciting to see what’s around the corner next season.
"The first year was a pulling together of a philosophy, a Club, individual players and coaching staff in a bid to try to mould a group that could be cohesive and successful on the pitch.
"I remember: my first meeting with Head of Women's Football Gavin Makel was at Manchester Airport – I was on my way home to California from Lincoln where I was living.
"I got a phone call from my agent and he told me someone from City wanted to speak to me. I told him where I was staying at the airport and that I had some time if he could see me then.
"I met Gavin in the lobby and we had a conversation over coffee – which probably explains why the team like coffee so much!
"It was quite surreal because Gavin was moving at the time and he had to put down his boxes to come and meet me! We had a quick chat about the Club’s plans. He showed me on his laptop a presentation of the City Football Group, the City Football Academy… and what sold me the most was the overall vision.
"In previous years, different clubs and organisations had promised things but there was nothing to show. The big difference with City was that CFA was three-quarters of the way done and there was an actual picture, which was really easy to buy into.
"It was a risk, admittedly. We didn’t know who was going to sign or how things were going to pan out but I think Gavin and I both made the right decision!
"For me as a player, it’s all about development, and where I can put myself in the best environment to become a better version of myself.
"I think I signed in November and the Club flew me over in December to have a look around, watch a game, meet some people – and I was blown away by the whole organisation and its values.
"Everything just kept getting better and better and you could see we were heading in the right direction.
"In the first year, we completely overachieved by winning the Continental Tyres Cup and that was a massive stepping off point for us as a team, with what we had at the time and what we managed to do.
"This season had a lot of ups and downs – it’s been a grind but a good grind.
"There have been some exhilarating moments, and a lot of challenges… I am so proud and that’s the word I’d say sums up the season for me.
"We’ve played some really good football and this team is like no team I’ve ever played for. I’m really proud of the girls, our accomplishments, the Club, the staff, the fans and Manchester.
"Anyone in the squad can come in and do a really good job. We have a great relationship and that makes things easy for us.
"All the work that goes on behind-the-scenes (not just the physical side but the mental side too) is so stimulating for me. Creating new ideas and thought processes has been one of the coolest things over the years.
"When you come to a Club, you do wonder what else you can learn – I was 28, 29 years old when I signed – but it shows there is so much more out there.
"Everyone at the Club wants to get better – there’s a really healthy level of competition and that kicks other people on. It’s a case of ‘if I get better, you get better’ and that’s really positive.
"Each week, everyone puts in so much graft and hard work that the weekend became the exam – the time to enjoy playing football. I’ve really loved being part of this season.
"There have been hard times but knowing you’re getting better every day is really inspiring. Within the changing room, it’s an interesting place. There are so many different personalities and characters – everyone brings a different layer and there’s a lot of support in every department.
"I think there have been a lot of defining moments regarding the character of the team. Coping with the tragedy of Zoe Tynan’s passing in particular was really tough and it added a whole new layer to us as a group.
"We wanted to succeed for her – that was a big challenge but a big motivation. We wanted to honour her in the best way we could.
"It’s a great group and it’s very genuine. We do a lot of stuff together off the pitch – boxing at Moss Side (which I really enjoy), meals out, kayaking, golf challenges… There have been lots of memories off the pitch as well as on it.
"When I came to this Club, I wanted to win silverware. We never hid that and the fact we’ve been able to achieve it excites me for what’s to come.
"It’s been pretty awesome so far!"