Manuel Pellegrini hailed Manchester City’s success for winning the Barclays Premier League – and for doing so in stunning style.
Scorers: Manchester City - Nasri (39), Kompany (49)
A comfortable 2-0 win over West Ham yesterday completed City’s triumph by two points over Liverpool in the title race, while scoring a record 156 goals in all competitions this season.
City’s total of 102 Premier League goals was one short of the record, but the 156 goals is nine more than the 147 Chelsea managed last season.
The team’s style was in stark contrast to the often-negative tactics under predecessor Roberto Mancini – and the Chilean said he had inherited a disunited squad. Pellegrini, who has become the first non-European coach to win the English top flight, said: “It was my first season in the Premier League and I had to change a lot of things.
“The most important thing was we changed absolutely the way this team play. I am not criticising other styles or comparing. I like to play one way and for me it was very important to give the reasons and to have the trust of the players to change the way they played before. When I arrived at this club maybe the relations between the squad were not in the best moment so I think it was very important to have calm and try to convince all of them how we can play and how it was important to be very close – all of us, managers, players and fans – to try to win a very difficult title.
“I think the way we played was as important as winning the title. We have players to play in counter-attack but for me, to win titles just in that way, I will not be happy. We won with 102 goals, and with the record of goals in all competitions in the history here in England it is the way the team must play with the quality of players we have. It has been a brilliant season and I would say of all the sides we kept going longest in all four competitions.
“The Wigan [FA Cup quarter-final] defeat was quite tough to bear but when you consider we played 14 or 15 more games than Liverpool, maybe if we had gone further in the FA Cup we may not be sitting here as champions.”
Pellegrini was given the bumps by his delighted players after the trophy ceremony, and they lined up to praise his influence on the squad.
Samir Nasri, who scored the opening goal before Vincent Kompany added a second, said: “I’m so happy for the manager because it’s his first title in Europe. He remained calm. It was a pleasure to work for him.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s my second league in three years. It was an amazing league all year. Everyone put his ego on the side.”
City’s England goalkeeper Joe Hart added: “He’s a winner, he wants us to win. He is a measured man and he believes in what he does.’’
Kompany said: “We are building a club, not just a team. The past is the past, but surely we have our place in the future. Next year we have to be even better. If we want to be a big club this has to be one of many.”
Pellegrini admitted the success felt “very special” but that after the victory parade today, work would start on Tuesday for next season.
“I think it’s very important to celebrate today and tomorrow and on Tuesday start working for next season.
“We are going to do a balance of the whole year and the positive things and negative things and way we can improve our squad. It has been a beautiful season but you always need to continue winning and improving, and we are going to start working as soon as possible to be the strongest team next year.”
The game itself never looked to be one which would cause City too many problems. The goals came in a ten-minute spell which straddled the half-time interval at the Etihad Stadium, rendering nearest rivals Liverpool’s win against Newcastle academic.
With ex-Liverpool players Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing in their side, as well as Reds fan Kevin Nolan, West Ham did have the personnel to provide one last dramatic twist. But that was always a long shot and there was never any hint that the final-day drama of their title win two years ago would be repeated.
City’s top scorer Sergio Aguero was back in their side after injury but not at his sharpest, although on this occasion his brilliance was not needed. West Ham did play more positively than the previous visitors to Eastlands, Aston Villa in midweek, but the occasions they threatened were still few and far between.
The hosts appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty early on after Mark Noble deflected a Pablo Zabaleta cross on to his hand. Their first real chance came after David Silva and Aguero combined well on the edge of the box. Yaya Toure’s initial effort was blocked before Silva volleyed over from a Zabaleta cross.
Zabaleta then wanted a penalty after going down under a challenge by Mohamed Diame before Aguero showed some nimble footwork to spark an attack from inside his own half. The ball was worked across the field and Aguero tried to finish from distance but slipped as he shot and Adrian saved comfortably. Nasri then had a good cross turned behind and Toure curled a shot wide as news filtered through that Liverpool had fallen behind. City maintained the pressure, with Aleksandar Kolarov forcing Adrian to tip over a powerful drive from distance.
Nasri finally broke through six minutes before the interval as he took aim from 20 yards and struck a powerful low shot which went in off the post after a possible touch from Adrian. City fans then increased the volume significantly and Aguero glanced a header wide before Silva saw an effort deflected on to the bar off Carroll.
City truly got the party started four minutes into the second half when Kompany stabbed home from six yards after Edin Dzeko won the ball from a corner.
Aguero had two opportunities to extend City’s lead but headed wide at the near post and then failed to connect in front of an open goal from a Zabaleta cross. He appeared to pick up another knock in the closing moments and he showed his frustration by bundling over Noble off the ball.
That sparked an unnecessary scuffle involving several players and Aguero was eventually booked, but it could not dampen City’s celebrations. They knew the job was completed and the hosts duly played out the closing minutes to prompt jubilant scenes.