MANCHESTER, England: They won it in the last remaining seconds in 2012, and in the final match in 2014. At last, Manchester City’s players can enjoy a serene Premier League title triumph.
And they can thank fierce rival Manchester United for that.
City clinched the title without even playing on Sunday when United, its nearest challenger, surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to last-place West Bromwich Albion.
It was City’s third title in seven seasons — and fifth in its history — and easily its most convincing, with Pep Guardiola’s team 16 points clear and still having five games to play this season
“Our Time. Our City. Premier League Champions 17/18,” City tweeted soon after the final whistle
Second-place United dragged the title race out for at least another week by winning 3-2 at City last weekend, only to gift the trophy to City by losing to a team that is destined for relegation and had just one league win since August.
Guardiola might not have seen Jay Rodriguez’s 73rd-minute winning goal at Old Trafford because he was playing golf with his son instead of watching the match. Vincent Kompany did, with images showing the City captain celebrating at his in-laws’ house where he was having dinner.
“I had a feeling when I woke up this morning,” Kompany said.
Goalkeeper Ederson Moraes was watching former club Benfica play Porto in the Portuguese league. The rest of the squad was spread out across Europe, and even beyond, on their day off after City’s 3-1 win at Tottenham on Saturday night had left the league title agonizingly close.
Instead of City hoping to clinch the title at home to Swansea next weekend, that game at Etihad Stadium will now be a party and a celebration of one of the Premier League’s finest teams which could yet break a slew of records by the end of the season.
City could yet finish the season with the most points, goals and wins from a single Premier League campaign. In sealing the league at this stage, City matched the record for the earliest title win — held by United since 2001.
“Unbelievable season for us,” said midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, perhaps City’s standout player over the past eight months. “Very happy to call us champions this year.”
An 18-match winning run from late-August to late-December laid the platform for the runaway title victory, and it was only a matter of when it would be clinched.
Few — including Guardiola — expected it to happen on Sunday.
“We’ve won you the league, Manchester City, we’ve won you the league,” sang West Brom’s jubilant fans near the end of the game.
The 2012 title win had the infamous last-gasp goal by Sergio Aguero. Six years later, the finale was much more underwhelming, with Rodriguez nodding in from a corner to silence the majority of Old Trafford and set up one of the most surprising wins of the season.
United manager Jose Mourinho had long given up hopes of winning the title, instead focusing on finishing second. This result left his team one point clear of third-place Liverpool, with a game in hand.
“I don’t know if I was the first or second or third but I congratulated them face to face when I had the chance,” Mourinho said. “I knew that sooner or later that would be, and if I was in their position I would be very upset (if) someone said they won the league because Man United lost against West Bromwich Albion.
“They won because they were the best team, they lost only a few points. Probably because I won eight championships, I was not in the moon with the victory against them because that doesn’t make me feel super happy.”
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