Alex Chick

Quiet Pellegrini has earned his moment of glory

Alex Chick

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Manchester City players hold Manuel Pellegrini aloft (Reuters)

A faint scent of anti-climax hangs over the Premier League after Manchester City clinched their second title in three years.

That's always a risk when your first one comes with two stoppage-time goals to deny your cross-city rivals after 44 barren years.

In one of the most bizarre seasons in memory, Manchester City became champions again simply by taking care of business.

Defeat to Liverpool followed by a home draw with Sunderland last month left City all but out of it, six points off the top - but as their rivals buckled, City reeled off five wins in a row and surged to the front.


Their nerveless dismissal of Aston Villa and West Ham in the final week were a world away from their madcap win over QPR in 2012.

This time they were slick, professional, deadly - just what champions are meant to be.

It's just that City, for all their extraordinary goalscoring prowess, do not fit any of the comfortable narratives so beloved by the football media.

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Manchester City fans celebrate winning the Premier League (Reuters)

The romance came from Liverpool - not quite the overwhelming neutrals' favourites they were portrayed as, but certainly architects of a remarkable campaign under Brendan Rodgers.

When Steven Gerrard delivered his impassioned team talk after their win over City, it seemed nothing could stop Liverpool.

Now his infamous rallying cry, "This does not f***ing slip now!" is just an internet punchline after Gerrard himself did just that against Chelsea - who offered the other defined storyline.

This was about Jose Mourinho, who returned to Stamford Bridge with his tactical masterstrokes and his pithy soundbites, ready to restore Chelsea to greatness.

Even when Jose started to feel the strain, openly criticising his strikers, his every word was greeted as a drop of pure wisdom. Yet he ended his first season back with a similar win percentage to Rafa Benitez - and one trophy fewer.


City's manager didn't slag off his own players. In fact, he didn't say very much at all. Manuel Pellegrini was quiet, dignified, frustratingly dull - he made headlines only when he wore that hoodie during City's FA Cup defeat to Wigan.

Despite scoring a perfectly ridiculous 156 goals, City only really received backing from anyone who considered them the least of three evils.

The suits don't seem to like them much, either. A massive UEFA punishment over Financial Fair Play looms, while FA chief Greg Dyke called it "depressing" to see City with so few English players.

Is the problem with the presence of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, or are the likes of Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards a little too eager to pick up huge wages for playing bit part roles? If Lescott cared as much about England as the FA demands all fans must, might he not have moved on in search of first-team football?

So City, who played consistently the best football in the country, who finished with goal difference 14 better than Liverpool, 21 better than Chelsea and 38 better than long-time front runners Arsenal, are destined to go down as strangely unloved champions.

It seems excellence alone just doesn't cut it these days - but that's what City offered.

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Edin Dzeko - Player of the Season? (Reuters)

Mourinho's nomination of Edin Dzeko as Player of the Season was obviously ridiculous, but it illustrated an important truth - the man who started the season as City's third-choice striker is better than anyone Chelsea have to offer up front.

Not that Mourinho should point the finger at anyone but himself; he has spent over £100m of Roman Abramovich's money. Had he not shelled out nearly £50m on Willian and Mohamed Salah - seemingly just to irritate Spurs and Liverpool - he might already have what he scathingly termed "real strikers" at his disposal.

At no point did Pellegrini follow up a Martin Demichelis howler by mithering about "real defenders", or lament his dreadful luck after Aguero went down injured. He kept quiet, trusted his squad, and his squad delivered.

Noisy neighbours no more, City are the kings of Manchester and deserving champions of England.

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Vincent Kompany and Manuel Pellegrini hold the Premier League trophy (Reuters)

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