The Citizen (Gauteng)

Pep: this was the hardest one


- Manchester

Manager Pep Guardiola hailed “relentless” Manchester City after they clinched the “hardest” of his three Premier League titles on Tuesday, sparking wild celebratio­ns outside the Etihad.

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 -- 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 savour 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 to see City lift the trophy after their final home game with Everton on 23 May.

In the meantime, hundreds celebrated in the streets outside City’s stadium, letting off blue flares, waving banners and joyously chanting.

“It feels amazing, the greatest feeling is winning the Premier League. Better than any other in football. Love it!” City fan Graham Warner said.

The club joined the celebratio­ns by unveiling a giant sky blue banner on the outside of the stadium with the slogan “CHAMPIONS” above a picture of the team celebratin­g.

Since being taken over by the Abu Dhabi Group in September 2008, City have become the dominant force in English football, winning five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and six League Cups.

“Pep Guardiola is the greatest manager in the history of English football. And hopefully we’re going to cap it all in a couple of weeks with the big one,” City supporter Charlie Hibber said.

Manchester City 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.”

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