MANCHESTER, England -- This was never going to be like last time. Manchester City players did it the hard way two years ago and they were not going to put their supporters through another emotional rollercoaster.
As Oasis classics blasted out of the loud speakers and thousands of City fans invaded the pitch to mob their heroes on the pitch at full-time with flares, flags and all manner of inflatable objects, it felt every bit as special as the title win in 2012. It has been a long, gruelling season but as ever, the table never lies.
After all the talk of the title being decided on goal difference, City finished exactly where it belonged. Out on its own at the top of the pile.
Even before kickoff, this had the feeling of supporters turning up to attend a coronation. The open top bus tour of Manchester had already been booked for Monday, the City team bus was greeted outside the stadium by chanting fans and flares, vendors outside the ground were selling ‘Champions 2014’ merchandise.
As the 50,000 fans sang Blue Moon when the players emerged from the tunnel, it felt more like a chant of celebration than motivation.
On the touchline stood the Premier League trophy, ready for presentation but still decorated in the red, white and black colours of last year’s winners Manchester United. In the changing room, the kit man already had the celebratory 'Champions 14' shirts ready to distribute to the players.
The blue half of Manchester has now taken top spot in English football and it is a fully deserved triumph for Manuel Pellegrini’s side in its first season under the Chilean.
The meaning of a second title triumph in three seasons was summed up by the jubilant scenes as thousands of fans stormed on to the pitch and mobbed their heroes at the full-time whistle. ‘City, City, best team in the world,’ they chanted.
They only needed a draw against West Ham to be confirmed as champions, but from the start they went for the victory against the visitors who were set up to defend and frustrate.
City had chances to take the lead early on - particularly when David Silva blazed over the bar - but there were never any signs of the panic that characterized that match against QPR in 2012.
When news of Newcastle’s first-half goal against Liverpool filtered through, pockets of cheering supporters around the stadium turned into an almighty roar.
Then, in the 39th minute, they broke the deadlock and never looked back. Samir Nasri was given too much time to line up his shot and fired low into the bottom corner from 30 yards, with a fingertip touch from Adrian not enough to stop the ball bouncing in off the far post.
It was the same minute that Pablo Zabaleta scored against QPR two years ago, but this time there would be no drama, no need for the heroics of Sergio Aguero in the dying moments.
Four minutes after the restart, West Ham failed to deal with a routine corner as Edin Dzeko attempted to volley towards goal and Vincent Kompany was on hand to turn in City’s second and put the result beyond any doubt.
On the touchline throughout, Pellegrini was a picture of calm, confidence and assuredness. He has praised his side’s maturity and professionalism throughout the title race - and it’s fair to say that they have reflected his own personality in that respect.
City has scored 102 goals - the most of any side in the league - while playing exciting and ambitious football. The 37 goals the club has conceded is only bettered by a notoriously cautious Chelsea team.
Exactly one year ago, City fans at Wembley sang ‘you can stick your Pellegrini up your ****’ and chanted in support of Roberto Mancini.
A year on, the 60-year-old has reclaimed the title and also guided City to glory in the Capital One Cup. The questions about his winning credentials - he had never won a trophy in Europe prior to joining City from Malaga - have been answered emphatically.
Throughout the season, they have played with attacking vibrancy and ambition. There have been rocky spells, especially away from home early on and in the week in April when City lost at Liverpool before drawing with Sunderland.
But Pellegrini has got the most out of the squad and has allowed his expensively assembled team to play with freedom and attacking ambition. Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure led the charge by both scoring more than 20 league goals, but they were ably backed by Nasri, Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo, David Silva and many more.
Pellegrini inherited a squad bursting with quality but undermined by page page stories of training ground fights and dressing room cliques under Mancini. The Italian would also explosively attack his players in public, while Pellegrini can sometimes be excruciatingly boring.
In that vain, City has almost snuck to the title via the back door, its games in hand meaning it had only spent 15 days at the top of the pile over the course of the campaign.
But City got there and got the job done on the final day. Champions again.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manuel Pellegrini