Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola felt this season’s Premier League title success was the hardest yet after his team were crowned champions once again following Manchester United’s 2-1 home defeat by Leicester on Tuesday night.
City had missed the opportunity to secure a third league triumph under the Spaniard on Saturday when a saved penalty from Sergio Aguero proved costly as Chelsea came from behind to win 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium.
United beat Aston Villa on Sunday and needed at least a point to put City’s celebrations on hold once again.
However, a side showing 10 changes could not see off the Foxes, who took an early lead through a fine volley from teenager Luke Thomas which was cancelled out by Mason Greenwood’s neat finish.
Caglar Soyuncu headed in a corner midway through the second half to secure all three points, which left City as champions with three games still to play.
“This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other. This was the hardest one,” said Guardiola, whose side beat Tottenham at Wembley to win the Carabao Cup final last month.
“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.
“Not forgetting, of course, all of the staff across our organisation who work to make this club the success it is.”
Guardiola continued: “At the start of every season, the Premier League is the most important title for us. 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.
“It is so important to say a huge thank you to all our fans. 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.”
Some fans will be allowed into the ground for the final home match of the league season on May 23 and Guardiola added in a video on City’s Twitter feed: “I am looking forward to the Everton game, we will lift the trophy with 10,000 people I think who will be coming to the stadium, it will be incredible.
“This business without these people is not the same, and hopefully next season we can enjoy it at all the Premier League teams.”
Guardiola will now take his side to Newcastle on Friday safe in the knowledge that he has delivered another major trophy back to the Etihad Stadium, reclaiming the league crown from Liverpool, and still with the opportunity to complete a treble.
City also have European dominance firmly in their sights, with the chance to set the record straight when they tackle Chelsea, who beat them in the FA Cup semi-finals, for the Champions League crown on May 29.
City captain Fernandinho spoke of his pride at leading the club to another title success.
“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,” the Brazilian said.
“To captain this team is an honour and a privilege because the players have given their all throughout the 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 fulfilment of our ambitions. It’s what we all dreamed of as young players, so to do it is a wonderful feeling.”
Fernandinho added: “We will enjoy this moment and we hope the fans do too.
“Rest assured we will continue to do everything we can to bring the Champions League home this season.”