Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said his side were “legends” after they secured their fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
City won the league by a point over challengers Liverpool with a stunning 3-2 comeback win against Aston Villa on the final day at Etihad Stadium. It is Guardiola’s 11th trophy in six years since coming to England.
“We are legends. We will be remembered. This group of players are absolutely eternal in this club,” said Guardiola. “What we achieved, it is so difficult to do it. Sir Alex Ferguson with Manchester United has done it years ago – two or three times – now I realize again the magnitude of doing this. Now we are part of this.”
City were 2-0 down to Villa with 15 minutes left before substitute Ilkay Gundogan scored twice, either side of midfielder Rodri’s goal, in a sensational five-minute comeback. Had they not won, Liverpool would have been champions.
“The last game is always special – a lot of emotion,” Guardiola said. “Aston Villa gave everything but the first goal changed everything. We had to handle it. “When you win the Premier League in this country four times in five seasons, it is because these guys are so, so special. “Winning at home in front of our people is the best. The moment we equalized, we had the feeling we had the chance to score the third.
“It was the best atmosphere I have ever lived since I am here. Hopefully tomorrow we can celebrate together in Manchester’s streets with our cigars and beers. I will bring my cigars, don’t worry.” Liverpool won 3-1 at home to Wolves but could do nothing to stop Manchester City defending their title.
The top two sides lost just five games between them in the league all season. “The magnitude of the achievement is related to the magnitude of our rival and I have never seen a team like Liverpool in my life,” Guardiola added. “Congratulations to Liverpool – they have made us better and better each week.”
Asked whether he planned to stay beyond his current contract, which expires at the end of next season, he added: “I don’t have the energy or desire to think about next season now.
“Every season is more difficult. I would not betray the club – they give me probably the most incredible moments in my life but I have to feel it, the players have to feel it and the club has to feel it. “Now it is time to celebrate. We are champions again.”
Belgian midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, who was named Premier League player of the year earlier this week, said his side fought until the end because they had nothing to lose. “You just go for it – you’re losing anyway. You want to change the situation and that’s what we did,” he added.
Ukrainian international Oleksandr Zinchenko came on at half-time for Manchester City and made an impact when he set-up the second goal for Rodri. He celebrated on the pitch afterwards with a Ukrainian flag draped across his shoulders, posing for photos, before wrapping it around the trophy.
“[These are] unforgettable emotions for me – for all Ukrainians who at the moment are starving, and surviving in my country because of Russian aggression,” he said. “I am so proud to be Ukrainian and to bring this title to Ukraine, for all Ukrainian people, because they deserve it.
“It means everything for me – I would die for these people and their support. What people gave me and what they have done for me during this period – the toughest period of my life – I am so appreciative and I will never forget this, never in my life.”
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown said it would have been a “travesty” if City had missed out on a trophy this season, with Liverpool having picked up the two domestic cups as well as setting up a Champions League final against Real Madrid.
Former England striker Alan Shearer added: “What a team, what a season and what a standard of football we’ve witnessed. “It’s just unbelievable what Pep Guardiola’s got at Manchester City and what Jurgen Klopp has at Liverpool. It was a brilliant afternoon for the neutral. “I was nervous and I don’t really care who wins it – so god knows what those supporters were going through, as that was one tense afternoon. Incredible.”
Liverpool boss Klopp said it was a “joy” to work with his players each week, but they needed “a bit more consistency in the first half of the season” to beat City to the title. However, he described their achievements this season as “insane” and said they had pushed “the best team in the world” to the final day.
“[Finishing second] is the story of my life,” he said. “I’m still record-holder for not getting promoted in Germany with the highest points tally. You need to get more points than every other team, but we didn’t do that. “You can’t do more than give your absolute best and that’s what the boys did again. We chased the best team in the world to the wire. That’s absolutely special. We’ll build a team again and go again.
“These boys played an insane season. This is not the end, just a result of the season.”