SO THIS IS how it feels to be City. The new City. The new champions of England.
As many expected, Roberto Mancini’s team beat QPR to win their sixth game in a row and, ultimately, their first title in 44 years. But no-one will have expected how they did it. On a thrilling final day, we saw a moment to rank up with the very greatest in football history. For Anfield 1989, Camp Nou 1999 and Istanbul 2005, City now have their own: Eastlands 2012. For once, the hype is fully justified.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes, it looked like the title was undoubtedly going back to Old Trafford as a directionless, poor City toiled while losing 2-1 to QPR. Of course, it was said in the build-up to this game that there would likely be one last twist in-keeping with a season of so many surprises. We didn’t just see one though. We saw several.
Indeed, the match that finally won City the title was a fitting microcosm of their season: an early lead, a second-half collapse, a situation that looked like it would be one of the worst bottle-jobs in the division’s history and, at the end, a raucous, glorious win by the smallest of margins.
And that makes City more than deserving champions. When it came right down to it, they stepped up.
Of course, there’s the possibility that QPR momentarily went to sleep as news came through of Bolton’s failure to do what they required at Stoke. But, to City’s credit, they didn’t. Indeed, some of their most criticised players illustrated moments of character.
It was Edin Dzeko, after all, who brought them back into the game and re-ignited belief when all seemed lost. And it was then Mario Balotelli who forced the opening for Sergio Aguero to provide that magnificent moment.
It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that City were only in that situation because both Manchester United and QPR – for the most part – did their jobs. United absolutely battered Sunderland and could even have made up their goal difference only for Simon Mignolet to put in a superb performance. QPR, meanwhile, defended exceptionally. The desire was all too evident in the manner they threw their bodies at free-kicks.
And all that was, of course, in spite of Joey Barton’s ridiculous red card. Yes, he may have been goaded and even hit first by Carlos Tevez. But his response was utterly moronic. He should be rightfully punished for the kind of stupidity that may well have tilted the table on the last day.
Ultimately, though, it didn’t matter. Bolton couldn’t do their job. City did theirs.
Elsewhere, there was vindication for Arsene Wenger as – after one of the most trying seasons of the Arsenal manager’s period at the club – his side came back from all that, and a 2-1 West Brom lead, to win and finish as high as third. Tottenham put them under pressure by defeating Fulham but, just like the title race, both sides must consider a campaign in which they looked to be in a commanding position only to lose it.
In the end, though, City were in the most commanding position of all: first. And champions.