City clinches ti­tle ... with help from United

Premier League is the prize for Manch­ester squad

The Peterborough Examiner - - Sports - RORY SMITH

MANCH­ESTER, ENG­LAND — Pep Guardi­ola spent the day golf­ing.

Ra­heem Ster­ling was re­lax­ing on his sofa.

Vin­cent Kom­pany, trailed by the cam­eras of Manch­ester City’s in-house tele­vi­sion sta­tion, was with his fam­ily.

In the end, none of them needed to do any­thing for Manch­ester City to be crowned Premier League soc­cer cham­pion.

Guardi­ola and his team had hoped, of course, to win a third cham­pi­onship in seven years in rather more sat­is­fy­ing cir­cum­stances: Had Guardi­ola and City beaten Manch­ester United at the Eti­had Sta­dium a week ago, they would have claimed the ti­tle on home soil, and against their fiercest ri­val.

De­spite lead­ing by two goals at half­time, though, City col­lapsed, los­ing by 3-2.

Guardi­ola was phleg­matic in de­feat: All City had to do, he said, was win two of its re­main­ing six games.

In the end, one was enough. Af­ter 10 days in which City had crashed out of the Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter-fi­nals to Liver­pool and lost the Manch­ester derby, Guardi­ola’s team swept Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur aside Satur­day night, win­ning by 3-1 at Wem­b­ley.

On Sun­day morn­ing, its lead at the top of the Premier League was 16 points.

United, its near­est con­tender, had been ex­pected to cut that back to 13 — with five games to play — on Sun­day.

José Mour­inho’s United was at home to West Bromwich Al­bion, rooted to the foot of the ta­ble, all but as­sured of rel­e­ga­tion, and com­ing to the end of a sea­son in which it has fired two man­agers, a chair, a chief ex­ec­u­tive and a di­rec­tor of foot­ball.

Even Kom­pany was not ex­pect­ing much at Old Traf­ford.

On Sun­day morn­ing, he asked his Twit­ter fol­low­ers which games they would be watch­ing around Europe.

He name-checked Mi­lan against Napoli, Schalke against Borus­sia Dort­mund, Celtic against Rangers, PSV Eind­hoven against Ajax — but not the one that could de­cide the ti­tle. By the time Jay Ro­driguez gave West Brom the lead in the sec­ond half against an in­sipid Manch­ester United, though, there was only one game Kom­pany and his team­mates were watch­ing.

United could not find a way back. West Brom held firm.

City’s lead stayed at 16 points, with only 15 avail­able.

In the pour­ing rain, to a cho­rus of jeers around Old Traf­ford, City was con­firmed as cham­pion.

The an­ti­cli­max of the de­noue­ment, though — the po­lar op­po­site to the cir­cum­stances in which the club won its first Premier League, in 2012, when Ser­gio Aguero scored with the last kick of the sea­son to clinch the cham­pi­onship — should not dis­guise the scale of City’s achieve­ment.

Guardi­ola’s team still could win the league by a record mar­gin, with a record points haul, hav­ing won more games and scored more goals than any team has be­fore.

His de­trac­tors will point to the money he has spent, and to the in­con­sis­tency of the Premier League’s other big beasts, but that he has crafted a side vastly su­pe­rior to any­thing else in Eng­land this year should not be ques­tioned, a team so good that it could win the league without kick­ing a ball.

Even Mour­inho, his great­est foe, rec­og­nizes that. “Manch­ester City won the ti­tle be­cause they won more points than any­body else,” Mour­inho said.

FRANK AUG­STEIN THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Manch­ester City’s Gabriel Je­sus scores dur­ing an English Premier League soc­cer match against Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium in Lon­don on Satur­day. Man City won the con­test, 3-1.

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