There’s always something a tad anti-climatic about winning the league championship without actually being on the field to do it. Manchester United losing to West Brom clinched the Premier League title for Manchester City, their third in the EPL era, fifth overall and the first in the Pep Guardiola regime. And still, the disappointing finish to their Champions League campaign leaves an aftertaste of bitterness amidst the sweetness of the champagne.
Guardiola wasn’t signed by Manchester City to win championships alone. They did it in 2012, dramatically, with Roberto Mancini on the sidelines. They outlasted Liverpool and Chelsea in a close race two years later with Manuel Pellegrini on the sidelines, who also led the club to a Champions League semi final. Guardiola, a two-time UCL champion with Barcelona, was brought to pronounce City as one of the biggest clubs in Europe, not just one of the richest.
At times, their football looked like the best in Europe. Maybe it was. They’re winning the Premier League title by a double digit margin – right now 16 points, but who knows where it will grow too as Manchester United seemed disinterested, or incapable of clinching the second place. But City couldn’t keep up with this own lofty standards all season long, which the same can be said about Guardiola and his tactical decisions, as well as running into the wrong team at the wrong time.
Never has one team beaten a Pep Guardiola side three times in one season – not even Real Madrid during the Mourinho wars. But Jurgen Klopp has always been a thorn in Guardiola’s side, and despite City beating Liverpool 5-0 in their first encounter this season, Klopp had the last laugh: The first team to beat City in the league this year (4-3) and a double against a side that was stunned at Anfield and just out of motivation and ideas in the second leg.
Despite the early exit (compared to expectations) in the Champions League, this season isn’t a disappointment: The championship is always the bread and butter for any club, especially after three seasons of failing to win it. But the goal here is continental, global even considering the feeder and sister club system Manchester City have established. The Champions League trophy is the crown jewel. This season it’ll remain out of their reach, and not because of referees, which is what Guardiola would try and have you believe.