The host knew a victory on the final day of the season would guarantee the title and, despite losing 2-0, he scored three goals in five second-half minutes to send the Etihad Stadium into delirium.
Fans, many of whom had their heads in their hands for much of the game, ran onto the pitch full time to celebrate winning a title race like no other.
As the players raced towards the tunnel, City supporters danced onto the pitch and even beat one of the goals as a breathtaking rendition of the club’s famous anthem, Blue Moon, filled the air.
Eventually the stewards ushered people off the pitch, allowing the City players to reappear and parade the trophy past an adoring, if not exhausted, crowd.
City’s Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Zinchenko was particularly emotional in the victory lap. The 25-year-old was in tears as he wrapped the trophy in his country’s flag, paying tribute to those who suffered in war.
As the season drew to a close, City manager Pep Guardiola said “the hardest serve in tennis is the one you have to serve to be champions”.
It was an analogy that couldn’t have been more apt on a rollercoaster afternoon in Manchester.
Goals from Matty Cash and former Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho seemed to have stolen the title from City, but Guardiola has assembled a very special team.
While many teams may have withered under the pressure, City kept pushing and got their reward – with two goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri securing a fourth league title in five years.
It’s a feat made all the more impressive by the quality of Liverpool, who have fought tooth and nail with City throughout the season. His win over Wolves on Sunday ultimately proved academic.
City’s victory comes 10 years after Sergio Aguero opened the floodgates to a decade of success at Manchester City, scoring a last-minute goal on the final day of the season to lift the league title.
And, minus a goal in the dying seconds, that title win was almost as spectacular, with fans witnessing the full spectrum of emotion.
“We are legends,” Guardiola told Sky Sports after the jaw-dropping game. “When you win the Premier League in this country four times in five seasons, it’s because these guys are so, so special. We will be remembered.”
A palette of emotions
Fans seemed confident their side would replicate such success before kick-off with chants of Liverpool’s defeat and City’s title win filling the air outside the stadium
There was a party atmosphere to boot, with DJs encouraging supporters to sing along to Oasis songs as they made their way to their seats.
But at the start of the match, the excitement turned to nerves as the home fans grew restless every time Aston Villa took advantage of a possession pass.
Anxiety temporarily eased as news of Liverpool’s backlog against Wolves reverberated on the pitch, but gained momentum as City, notably Gabriel Jesus, squandered a few early chances and Liverpool equalized.
Frustration turned to anger as Villa netted twice, prompting many of the Blues to look to the skies for some sort of intervention.
The title that so many expected City to win was slipping away.
But it’s not like this City side went down without a fight, and they took matters into their own hands.
Confidence grew after Gundogan scored the first in the 76th minute and, in the blink of an eye, Rodri leveled the scores. As fans continue to celebrate, Gundogan struck again in the 81st to cap off one of the most chaotic spells in Premier League history.
Gerrard’s mission failed
There was an added element of drama to Sunday’s game, with City’s opponents having certain allegiances to their title rivals.
Villa manager Steven Gerrard is a Liverpool legend but failed to win the league title during his tenure at the club.
He came close, of course, but his infamous slip seven years ago contributed to his team throwing away the title that season.
Fast forward to now, and the script was almost too perfect from Liverpool’s perspective.
Knowing he needed to get something out of the game to help his boyhood club leapfrog City, Gerrard stalked the Etihad touchlines like a double agent sent from Anfield.
He barked instructions at ex-Liverpool player Coutinho who was looking to probe City’s defense and deliver a gift to his former club.
Gerrard kicked every ball from the touchline as his players fought resolutely against the mounting pressure from City.
Eventually Villa’s defense buckled and the floodgates opened.
In truth, no one can blame City for the title.
While Liverpool produced a more rock and roll style of football, City blew the teams away time and time again and showed a consistency that once again rightfully crowned them league champions.
Burnley were relegated after losing 2-1 at home to Newcastle United.
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