It might’ve come in the most bizarre of circumstances and the most protracted turns of events, but last weekend Manchester City were crowned the champions of England.
Of course, they wanted it to happen the weekend before last, by rubbing it in the faces of those that have switched places as the ‘noisy neighbours’, but Manchester United pulled off arguably their best 45 minutes post Sir Alex Ferguson to avoid ‘being the clowns’ at their rivals’ party.
However, they would go on to lose to bottom-placed West Brom at home — United’s only third league defeat at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho — to hand City the title, after Pep Guardiola’s side bounced back from three successive defeats in all competitions to beat Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.
City’s string of defeats this month, two against Liverpool in the Champions League and against United in the league, has tarnished what has been the club’s most successful season in history, delivering them the league and the Carabao Cup.
Winning the league with five games to spare has made them the joint quickest to the title in English Premier League history as well.
The fact that there has been an underwhelming sensation is testament to the first half of the season, where City looked like having swept all before them come May.
There was talk of the unprecedented quadruple, and going the season unbeaten at the turn of the year. Yes, most of it was media hype, but at the start of 2018, the odds were firmly stacked against the league being decided all the way in mid-April and more crucially City not even being the most successful English club in the Champions League — let alone not giving it a proper tilt and worse, being knocked out by an English side.
Even so, winning the tough fixture away to Spurs to win the league has meant that there are still numerous records that City can break domestically, especially with no other fixtures left for them to play outside the league.
They could easily get the post points and goals in a season records — both currently held by Chelsea (05/06 and 09/10 respectively) — if they win three of their five games to go beyond 95 points and score another 11 goals in the process to beat the current record of 103.
They could also get the biggest ever win margin in terms of points, beating the 18 points that the United of 99/00 won the league by.
However, most importantly for City, they have in place a side — and a squad — that is the best in England. And even though the challenges are propping up domestically — mostly at the hands of Liverpool, and even United potentially — Guardiola’s side would be the team to beat domestically next season as well.
Most of this is based on the team put together by the Spaniard and how he has managed to instill his philosophy in them, which for much of the season his players have carried out to the tee. Kevin De Bruyne, for instance, would’ve been the shoo-in for Player of the Season, had Mohamed Salah not had a monstrous season.
Along with De Bruyne, David Silva has completed the playmaking double punch that Guadiola has preferred since the days of Xavi and Andres Iniesta at Barcelona. Similarly, Sergio Aguero has had another huge season in front of goal, despite struggling with injuries and facing stiff competition from Gabriel Jesus.
With Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling — all of whom had prolific seasons in terms of attacking numbers and overall impact in the final third — averaging 22 years of age between them, what Guardiola has also achieved is given a young side the taste of success, leaving them hungry for more, and the club in a good place to succeed in the long run.
Even though Liverpool have turned out to be City’s bogey team in the second half, it was arguably the 5-0 win at home against them in early September that put forward Man City’s claims of being the team to beat this season.
With away wins at Chelsea (1-0) and United (2-1) in the next three months, coupled with the then runaway league leaders winning all of their first 20 matches barring one, meant that for all intents and purposes the league was settled in December.
The fact that these wins in the first half had come against all the sides in the league — barring Everton — including all the sides that were expected to challenge for the title, meant that City has had the edge over all their rivals up until the very end of the season.
Defeats in April might’ve given their rivals some confidence ahead of the next season, but City can reestablish that by breaking the records as the most dominant side in the English Premier League era. Even if that doesn’t happen, a young City side as the champions of England, with a manager constantly chasing history, would be confident of carving out their own dynasty in the years to come.