'The Premier League's best-ever champions', 'A stunning, epic title success without equal', 'The greatest campaign in English history' ...
Just some of the superlatives to be found in this morning's headlines as the media reflect on Manchester City's historic back-to-back Premier League title success.
City’s dramatic defence of our league title rightly dominates the domestic media landscape this morning - and the press are universal in their praise for Pep Guardiola’s back-to-back champions.
There are myriad warm words for the way City saw off the relentless challenge of a persistent Liverpool to claim a second successive title win and so secure the Club’s fourth league crown in eight seasons.
But arguably the most striking tribute in the plethora of praise comes from the Daily Mirror’s John Cross who believes City’s 2018/19 champions deserve to go down in history as the Premier League’s greatest champions.
Writes Cross: “City deserve to be remembered as the best champions in the Premier League era.
“Manchester City retained the title in what will surely be remembered as the greatest season in history and that should go down as Pep Guardiola’s crowning achievement.
“City were pushed to the limit by Liverpool, Guardiola’s men went through new boundaries they did not even reach in last year’s record-breaking campaign.
“Quite how Liverpool can get 97 points, lose just one game all season and still not win the title is incredible. But it should not just be viewed as Liverpool being the best runners-up in history but also how good City have been to finish above them.
“This season has been unique, two teams out on their own, miles ahead of the rest in every sense. City could yet win the Treble while Liverpool could be crowned European champions.
“They have pushed each other to new heights and the duel between Liverpool and City is what will set this year apart as Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have gone toe-to-toe as gladiators in the ultimate title slugfest.
“City have been relentless, a winning machine as, since losing at Newcastle on January 29, they have won 14 games in a row and done it in style.
“The speed, movement and flow of their football has been exceptional all year long.
In the Daily Mail meanwhile, chief sports writer Martin Samuel was another to be left both bedazzled and bewitched by City’s title-winning blend of footballing artistry and sustained excellence.
Not least for the fact that Samuel says those sides that do achieve back-to-back title successes are a special breed.
Samuel writes: “Retaining it is never easy. Arsene Wenger could not do it at Arsenal. Don Revie never did it with Leeds. Nor did Bill Shankly at “Liverpool. Antonio Conte's Chelsea rewrote the record books, but a repeat was beyond him. And had a soothsayer told Pep Guardiola that 98 points would be the magic number to keep the trophy this season, he would probably have considered that feat beyond him, too.
“What team can get 198 points across two seasons? The sort of team that can win 14 straight games under quite incredible pressure, perhaps.
“That is what Manchester City had to do, in the end. After losing at Newcastle on January 29, we now know City would have to win every remaining league game this season to stay out of Liverpool's reach. Had that been understood as the task on that night, few would have predicted City would be lifting the trophy on May 12.
“Nothing underscores the brilliance of Pep Guardiola's team more than the presence of Liverpool a short neck behind. Liverpool are, without doubt, one of the greatest teams the competition has ever seen. Just one draw for City in these final months – away to Everton, at Manchester United, at home to Tottenham, Arsenal or Chelsea – and Liverpool would have won the league.
“And all this was achieved with the pressure of knowing that, too. From a long way out, Guardiola has been convinced Liverpool would win their remaining games.
“He knew City had to, as well. Lesser teams would have cracked, if only once. And once would have been all it needed. Encapsulating this campaign is a battle of superlatives. Liverpool were amazingly good; incredibly, City were even better.”
For the Daily Telegraph’s chief football writer Jason Burt, City’s title defence was both beautiful in conception and its execution.
And just like the rest of Fleet Street’s finest, Burt was entranced by the dramatic nature of a title race that swung back and forth all season long.
Burt scribed: “Manchester City are the Premier League champions. But that statement does not go anywhere near conveying this epic title race although it did feel so right that the goal that sealed it, the third one, the one that cleared the City bench in celebration, with Pep Guardiola punching the air, was a beauty.
“But then City’s contest with Liverpool has been a thing of beauty all season and even on this final day there was a final twist. For 21 minutes Liverpool were champions, as they scored and Brighton took the lead here, but the new world order restored itself with goals by Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte and that wonderful strike by Riyad Mahrez before Ilkay Gundogan’s almost equally as stunning free-kick.
“It meant City claimed a fourth title in eight seasons and, in so doing, became the first team to retain it since Manchester United in 2009 which means a lot to manager Pep Guardiola.
“They also became the first team to end a top-flight season with 14 consecutive victories, breaking Arsenal’s record from 2002.
“It has been that stunning and it has taken such a stunning effort to beat Liverpool by just a point. Between them the two fine sides have 195 points, the first time two teams have passed 90 points in a season, with City finishing on top with 98. Incredible.”
The superlatives continue apace in the Manchester Evening News for whom chief Manchester City correspondent Stuart Brennan opines that this was the ‘greatest league campaign in English football history.’
And for Brennan, the dramatic manner of City's 2018/19 title success eclipsed even our historic Centurions campaign of last season.
Brennan reports: “First they were Centurions … but now Manchester City should be hailed for the greatest league campaign in English football history.
“The Blues made it back-to-back titles in slightly nervy fashion as Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte and brilliant strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan brought them back from the brink at Brighton to win 4-1.
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“The points total of 98 was two shy of last season’s record haul, but the way in which City have won this, stringing together 14 straight wins to gradually rein in the Scousers and then holding their nerve as the two teams exchanged three-point blow for three-point blow, sets it apart.
“To beat a team that lost just once in the entire season is incredible – a show of guts and nerve as well as an exhibition of the supreme quality of Pep Guardiola’s team.
“To win it against a team that clocked up 97 points- the third highest total in the league’s history – and which only lost one game in the entire campaign, is extraordinary.
“The Centurions season was incredible, but this achievement is even better.”
In the Guardian, meanwhile, Dominic Fifield hailed Guardiola’s side's strength of nerve following our 2-1 loss at Newcastle in late January.
And he believed the response to that setback was truly the stuff of champions.
Fifield penned: “City know they have been challenged this year, stretched wonderfully by Liverpool’s startling progress.
“The mind-boggling tally of points collected by Jürgen Klopp’s side would have been enough to claim the championship in all but three of the previous 119 campaigns based on three points for a win, and yet it was still not enough to overhaul Pep Guardiola’s team.
“They have won 198 points across two seasons, a staggering haul. Their 95th top-flight goal of the campaign, a free-kick whipped sumptuously into the top corner by Ilkay Gündogan, summed it all up. Mat Ryan sprang to his left but could not lay a glove on it. Opponents have been trying and failing to do that with City all season.
“Not for a decade has a side retained this title, but the form mustered in the run-in – 14 successive wins stretching back to a defeat at Newcastle in late January – represented a blistering response to the challenge on their authority being mustered from Anfield.”