Blue-and-white tickertape flew up and fireworks exploded as Manchester City’s players finally got their hands on the Premier League trophy on Sunday.
They couldn’t mark the occasion with a potentially record-breaking win — City surprisingly drew 0-0 with relegation-threatened Huddersfield — but it didn’t stop them basking in the glory of a stylish and runaway title triumph that was clinched in record-equalling time two weeks ago.
Pep Guardiola was thrown in the air by his squad while Yaya Toure danced and jigged with his teammates on one of his last appearances on the Etihad Stadium turf.
Toure was given the biggest cheer by fans as City’s players walked up to the stage to collect the trophy. As many of them jumped on the midfielder, the trophy fell off its perch and onto the grass, but it was only a minor blip on beautiful, sunny day in east Manchester.
Some of the backroom staff swigged on huge bottles of champagne. City’s fans, who earlier defied orders to not invade the pitch after full-time, chanted song after song about their favorite players.
The crowning moment came when Vincent Kompany raised aloft the biggest prize in English football, the third time the long-serving City captain has done so in seven seasons.
“This team deserve it more than ever. I’m absolutely buzzing for them,” Kompany told Sky Sports. “The impact of the gaffer was massive and the team has been so willing to learn, willing to implement it every single week.”
There are still two games left in City’s league season — and still time for City to break the record for most points, wins and goals in a single Premier League campaign. Then City will aim to become an even more celebrated team by retaining the title for the first time.
“This is the Premier League. England is so special, it’s so tough,” Guardiola said. “You never know you’re going to win, nobody knows. You win, you lose but always you have to try to do what you believe. When we started the season we believe OK and we wanted to try but I didn’t know whether we would be able to win.”
Even Guardiola might let off his players for sloppy play against Huddersfield on a day when fans partied inside and outside the stadium and the side entered to a guard of honor made up of the Huddersfield team as well as players from City’s title-winning team from 1968.
It was the first time this season City had been kept scoreless at home in the league, the last occasion being in April last year in a 0-0 draw against Manchester United.
“Today was the proof we can do better,” Guardiola said. “Today it was warm, it was so tough, the 11 Huddersfield players were playing to stay in the Premier League. We lost a bit of focus but it’s normal.
“We saw what happened in the last period: the team who won the league last season [might not] qualify for the Champions League, for example. Going back-to-back will be tough but we accept the challenge.”
City were comfortably atop the table for most of the season, but defender John Stones said the manager had “not let standards slip at all.”
“Every day he’s been wanting to improve us individually and as a team,” Stones said. “It’s a credit to him and his staff, he’d never say it’s just about him or his staff, it’s a collective. I think that’s why we’ve gelled so well together. It’s literally a dream come true.”
City’s remaining games are against Brighton at home and Southampton away, and Guardiola is sure to rotate, giving Toure a final bow after announcing earlier this week the Ivorian would not return.
Toure told Sky: “It’s very special. Today we didn’t win the game, we drew, but I think we fully deserve it this year. It is fantastic to be part of this team. I think next year is going to be more exciting than this year.
“It’s the first club where I’ve stayed such a long time. After eight years of service, I think it is the right time to move on and try to let the kids have their opportunity. I’m delighted to have been a part of this football club.”
Information from The Associated Press and Press Assocaition was used in this report.