Pep Guardiola hails Man City players after winning 'hardest' Premier League title

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Pep Guardiola hails Man City players after winning 'hardest' Premier League title - GETTY IMAGES
Pep Guardiola hails Man City players after winning 'hardest' Premier League title - GETTY IMAGES

Pep Guardiola hailed Manchester City’s fifth Premier League triumph as their toughest yet after sealing the title without kicking a ball.

Leicester City’s victory at Old Trafford means Manchester United cannot catch Guardiola’s team, who have three matches spare and will lift the trophy at the Etihad Stadium on May 23 when they face Everton on the final day of the campaign.

Guardiola dedicated this title, City’s fifth in 10 seasons, to club legend Colin Bell, who passed away in January aged 74. The City manager regards it as his toughest title after the Covid-19 pandemic squeezed the fixture calendar and prevented his squad from undergoing pre-season training.

“This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other,” said Guardiola. “This was the hardest one. We will always remember this season for the way that we won. I am so proud to be the manager here and of this group of players.

“They are so special. To come through this season – with all the restrictions and difficulties we’ve faced – and show the consistency we have is remarkable. It is relentless. Every single day, they are there, fighting for success, trying always to be better. They have been so, so resilient.

“That is equally true of each and every member of our backroom staff, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our players are fully equipped to take on the unexpected challenges and new routines throughout such a turbulent year.”

City players are due in for training on Wednesday at the Etihad Campus after two days off, giving them little time to celebrate. But the focus is now on the Champions League final against Chelsea when they will look to complete a treble following their Carabao Cup win.

“We will enjoy this moment and we hope the fans do too,” said City captain Fernandinho. “Rest assured we will continue to do everything we can to bring the Champions League home this season.”

The title win for City comes in the context of them being among the clubs worst hit by coronavirus during the season. Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan, Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus and Ederson are among those who had periods of isolation this season.

Their season was delayed after reaching the latter stages of the Champions League last season meaning they spent the first months of the season behind the pace and looking to find their best form. When they were defeated at Tottenham on Nov 21 they found themselves in 14th place.

After the Spurs defeat they went on a 28-match unbeaten run in all competitions, which was the backbone to their title win. It has also been a team triumph for Guardiola’s squad, with six players reaching double figures for goals.

“At the start of every season, the Premier League is the most important title for us,” said Guardiola. “This is the one where you have to be there every three days, playing all your rivals home and away. Only by being the very best, week in week out, can you win this competition. It is a huge success.

“In our toughest moments, we couldn’t hear the crowd get behind us as usual, but we know they are with us everywhere we go and that has lifted us. I promise them we sense their love, we appreciate it and we could not have done what we have done without it.

“I hope we can all celebrate together one day not too far away. It has been such a hard year for so many people. This one is really for our fans and for Colin Bell and all his family.”

Guardiola himself has extended a remarkable record of winning nine titles during his 12 seasons as a manager. He has three each with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now City.

It is the second time a United defeat has sealed the title for City, with their loss to West Bromwich Albion three years ago. This time around they lost to Leicester to leave the gap insurmountable. Caglar Soyuncu scored the winner after Luke Thomas’ opener was cancelled out by Mason Greenwood.

“Congratulations to them,” said United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “They have had a fantastic season. I am very pleased with my boys that have made it to the last 10 days with a Manchester City side ahead of us that are lauded as the best in Europe.

"We want to take the next step and it might be that we need a couple more to strengthen the squad.

“Of course it’s not a position we want to be in but we are realistic and the sensible answer is we pushed them until the last 10 or 12 days of the season. They’ve been lauded and rightly so as one of the best teams there has been in the Premier League.

“They’ve shown where the bar is. I want to congratulate Pep and the team of course.

“But that’s where we’re at. We’ve got to be big enough to hold our hands up. I don’t mind that. We know we want to get there, thats the next step we have to make and hopefully we can come together as a team and a club and push next season.”

Other records City broke during the season included 21 consecutive wins across all competitions and an English top-flight record streak of 19 straight away wins.

“I am so proud and so happy with what we have achieved,” added Fernandinho. “The Premier League is the hardest league in world football – every single game is tough. To win it again means the world to me and the rest of the squad.

“To captain this team is an honour and a privilege because the players have given their all throughout season, whether in training or in matches. The teamwork has been amazing. Football is everything to us and we strive every single day to be as good as we can be in the hope we can bring success to Manchester City.

“Winning the Premier League title is the ultimate fulfillment of our ambitions. It’s what we all dreamed of as young players, so to do it is a wonderful feeling. We have missed the fans so much. We wanted to do this for them.”

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