Roberto Mancini is looking forward to a Wembley showdown after Micah Richards' powerhouse header beat Reading to propel the Blues into their first FA Cup semi-final in 30 years ... against Manchester United.
City's boss believes there is now the tiniest gap between his glittering squad and the Premier League's elite clubs - and expects his trophy chasers to be up alongside the best on merit by next season.
Only Wayne Rooney's controversial overhead kick divided the teams in the Old Trafford derby, and Mancini clearly relishes the chance next month to clinch an FA Cup Final return to the national stadium.
He said: "We have improved a lot over the last year. You improve when you know what mistakes you make when you lose.
"We are very close to all the top squads now, but we still need to improve more. Maybe next year we will be at the same level as Arsenal and Chelsea. We played a good game at Old Trafford, and it will be a great semi-final.
"We knew the draw, but first we had to beat Reading! We deserved to win, even if the score was only 1-0. We had 17 attempts on goal against one or two, but in football if you don't score then you can have a problem."
Richards got a hug from his boss in the touchline euphoria that followed his 75th-minute header. Mancini added: "They made it very difficult but Micah scored a great goal. I am very happy for the supporters, going to Wembley is special.
Every semi-final in every competition is difficult, whether you meet United or Arsenal or Bolton. You are playing one game and in 90 minutes anything can happen
"It could be our year. But before the semi-final we have three other important games, one in the Europa League against Kyiv and two in the Premier League against Chelsea and Sunderland.
"Two-nil is not a good result (against us) because now we cannot concede any chance to Kyiv. But English teams were famous in the past for recovering these results. We need all our supporters here to help us try."