Pep Guardiola has declared Manchester City’s 2020-21 Premier League success to be the hardest title triumph of his career.
Leicester City’s 2-1 victory at Manchester United on Tuesday left Guardiola’s side with an unassailable 10-point advantage at the summit with three games remaining.
It is City’s third championship win in four seasons and fifth in the past decade, but their manager acknowledged the extenuating circumstances of this campaign made it an achievement like no other.
Guardiola now has nine league titles from his 12 seasons in senior coaching – three apiece with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City – but making it three in Manchester looked unlikely as his players stumbled through the opening weeks of this term.
Defeat at Tottenham in November left them with 12 points from eight matches and they were down in eighth on Christmas Day – the lowest position from which a team has gone on to win the Premier League at that stage of the calendar.
The recovery from that point, from a team stung by a Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon last August and a squad left a distant second by Liverpool last time around, is one in which their manager takes plenty of pride.
“This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other,” Guardiola said. “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.
“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.”
Guardiola, who lost his mother to coronavirus last year, dedicated the title win to Colin Bell, the City great who passed away after a non-COVID related illness in January.
City will soon turn their attentions towards trying to win a maiden Champions League, which would complete a 2020-21 haul also featuring the EFL Cup.
Nevertheless, Guardiola reiterated his stance that a team should always be judged primarily by their domestic league form.
“At the start of every season, the Premier League is the most important title for us,” he added.
“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.”