Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola hailed the most remarkable of Premier League title victories in a relentless campaign after his side were crowned champions of England once again following defeat for Manchester United by Leicester.
City had been made to wait to celebrate a third league triumph under Guardiola after Chelsea fought back to win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Rivals United kept up the pressure with victory over Aston Villa on Sunday, but came up short on Tuesday night as the Foxes ran out 2-1 winners at Old Trafford.
It left Guardiola’s side confirmed as champions with three matches left, and the prospect of a treble when they face Chelsea for Europe’s top club prize on May 29.
City had been eighth in the table on Christmas Day but Guardiola never lost faith as his side went on to complete 21 consecutive wins in all competitions.
Guardiola said: “This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other. This was the hardest one.
“We will always remember this season for the way that we won. I am so proud to be the manager here and of this group of players,” said Guardiola, whose side beat Tottenham at Wembley to win the Carabao Cup final last month.
“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. Every single day, they are there, fighting for success, trying always to be better. They have been so, so resilient.
“That is equally true of each and every member of our backroom staff, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our players are fully equipped to take on the unexpected challenges and new routines throughout such a turbulent year.
“Not forgetting, of course, all of the staff across our organisation who work to make this club the success it is.”
Guardiola continued: “At the start of every season, the Premier League is the most important title for us. This is the one where you have to be there every three days, playing all your rivals home and away.
“Only by being the very best, week in week out, can you win this competition. It is a huge success.
“It is so important to say a huge thank you to all our fans. In our toughest moments, we couldn’t hear the crowd get behind us as usual, but we know they are with us everywhere we go and that has lifted us.
“I promise them we sense their love, we appreciate it and we could not have done what we have done without it. I hope we can all celebrate together one day not too far away.”
The City boss spoke of his relief at the “massive achievement”, which he believes was made possible by the incredible 15-match winning run in the Premier League between December and March.
“(It is) Relief. It is a massive achievement,” said Guardiola. “I think everything started in December when we won at Southampton until March 7 when we lost against United. In that period, we won absolutely everything, all the games and that made the Premier League possible.”
Following confirmation of the title, City fans celebrated outside the Etihad Stadium.
Guardiola will relish the opportunity to mark the achievement with the club’s supporters once again when some will be allowed into the ground for the final home match of the league season on May 23.
“I am looking forward to the Everton game, we will lift the trophy with 10,000 people I think who will be coming to the stadium, it will be incredible,” Guardiola said in a video posted on the Manchester City Twitter page.
“This business without these people is not the same, and hopefully next season we can enjoy it at all the Premier League teams.”
Guardiola will now take his side to Newcastle on Friday confirmed as England’s best once again – and still with the opportunity to complete a treble.
City also have European dominance firmly in their sights.
There will be a chance to set the record straight when they tackle Chelsea, who beat them in the FA Cup semi-finals, for the Champions League crown, wherever the tie is eventually played.
City captain Fernandinho spoke of his pride at leading City to another title success – but warned they are hungry for more.
“Winning the Premier League title is the ultimate fulfilment of our ambitions. It’s what we all dreamed of as young players, so to do it is a wonderful feeling,” the Brazilian said.
“We will enjoy this moment and we hope the fans do too.
“Rest assured we will continue to do everything we can to bring the Champions League home this season.”