MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) -Manchester City were confirmed as Premier League champions for the third time in four seasons after second-placed rivals Manchester United lost 2-1 at home to Leicester City on Tuesday.
United’s defeat means City are 10 points clear with both sides having three games left to play.
City’s coronation had been delayed after Pep Guardiola’s side suffered a 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea on Saturday, although in truth they have looked uncatchable for several months.
It is Guardiola’s third Premier League title for City in his five seasons in charge and eighth domestic honour for the club.
“This has been a season and a Premier League title like no other,” said Guardiola, referring to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has seen matches played in empty stadiums.
“This was the hardest one. We will always remember this season for the way we won. I am so proud to be the manager here and of this group of players,” he added on the club website https://www.mancity.com/news/mens/pep-guardiola-premier-league-champions-reaction-63756357.
“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.”
United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised his side for “pushing” City into the final fortnight of the season, even though they were never serious challengers.
“We have pushed Manchester City all the way, until 10-12 days left in the season and it is a very good achievement because they are a very good team,” Solskjaer said.
“They are very worthy champions. I have to say congratulations because they have played some fantastic stuff this season.”
Despite City’s romp to the title they endured a tough start to the season after picking up 12 points from their first eight games — their worst start since 2008-09.
Since then they have been head and shoulders above their rivals and after hitting the top have looked unstoppable.
After losing at Tottenham Hotspur in November, slipping to 11th in the table, they have won 22 of their next 27 matches, including a 15-game winning run and a record-equalling 11 successive away league wins.
Guardiola’s side, second-best to Liverpool last season, also won a fourth successive League Cup and can claim a treble by beating Chelsea in this month’s Champions League final.
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said City were deserved champions. “They are the benchmark. They have been outstanding. Brilliant players. Incredible manager and they thoroughly deserve the title. Congratulations to Pep and his team.”
Manchester United had further delayed City’s title celebrations by beating Aston Villa away on Sunday but Leicester gave Guardiola’s side a helping hand on Tuesday.
Even if United beaten Leicester, and then Liverpool on Thursday, City could have wrapped up the club’s seventh English title by beating Newcastle United on Friday.
A huge “Champions” banner was draped outside City’s Etihad Stadium while a smattering of fans arrived to mark the occasion.
It will be considerably noisier on May 23 when City host Everton on the final day of the Premier League season with 10,000 fans permitted to attend.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)