'The hardest one'

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 13 May 2021

Pep Guardiola hailed "relentless" Manchester City after they clinched the "hardest" of his three English Premier League titles, sparking wild celebrations among supporters who had gathered outside the Etihad Stadium.

City were handed the title when arch-rivals and nearest challengers Manchester United lost 2-1 at home to Leicester, leaving Guardiola's side 10 points clear with three games remaining.

"This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other. This was the hardest one," said Guardiola after City became English champions for the seventh time, with five titles coming in the past nine years.

City missed a chance to celebrate on the pitch at the weekend, losing 2-1 at home to Chelsea with United keeping them waiting by winning at Aston Villa. But two days later they were able to savor a title triumph that is all the sweeter given the obstacles they have overcome in a coronavirus-condensed campaign played mostly without fans.

"We will always remember this season for the way we won. I am so proud to be the manager here and of this group of players," said Guardiola.

It was City's second trophy in a little over two weeks after beating Tottenham in the League Cup final.

"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."

With coronavirus restrictions to be eased next week, there will be up to 10,000 fans in the Etihad Stadium to see City lift the trophy after their final home game with Everton on May 23.

In the meantime, hundreds celebrated in the streets outside City's stadium, letting off blue flares, waving banners and joyously chanting. The club unveiled a giant sky blue banner on the outside of the stadium with the word "Champions" above a picture of the team celebrating.

City can secure a treble when they face Chelsea on May 29 in their first appearance in a Champions League final.

Club captain Fernandinho is now targeting being crowned European champions for the first time.

"We will enjoy this moment and we hope the fans do too," said the Brazilian midfielder. "Rest assured we will continue to do everything we can to bring the Champions League home this season."

City won just five of their opening 12 Premier League games but Guardiola masterminded such a superb recovery that the title race became a procession.

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