When Vincent Kompany raised the Premier League trophy above his head for the third time it was an occasion that was at last free from one Manchester City tradition – Cityitis.
No More ‘Cityitis’
The other times City won the league it required a goal with literally the very last kick of the season and beating West Ham at home to fall over the line. Like so many years there has always been a touch of ‘Cityitis’.
This is a condition diagnosed as ‘an uncanny ability to find a banana skin to slip over or torture your fans by leaving all your triumphs to the very last minute’.
Not so in 2018. An all-conquering City side finally found a cure for this long-term, and often deliberating, condition by being brilliant all season. This time they just cruised serenely to the title with weeks to spare.
So it was slightly surreal feeling watching a City team labour to a dull goalless draw against a hard-working but very limited Huddersfield team. Ironically, their scrappy 1-0 win at The John Smith’s Stadium was one of the defining moments of this record-breaking season as it proved that as well as guile, this lot had grit too.
During the interminable wait to clear the daft pitch invaders before the ceremony it was time to reflect on a season where the team smashed every record in the book. A team that has changed the dynamics of how our national game is played.
Every player on the team has improved under Pep Guardiola’s guidance, as they regularly topped 1000 passes in a game.
Raheem Sterling – last season he couldn’t hit a barn door, and every time he got the ball it was like it was on fire so keen was he to offload. This season 23 goals and 12 assists has seen him transformed into the quality player that was always lurking under the surface.
Even the club’s harshest critics wouldn’t dispute the genius of David Silva, and The Magician was at his imperious best again this season, darting here and there around the pitch making defender’s lives an utter misery.
It is even more remarkable when you consider he was playing under the cloud of a major family crisis, which the club handled with great skill and compassion.
Everyone Played Their Part
For hardcore fans, the real unsung hero and arguably player of the season was Fernandinho. He has been outstanding all season, breaking up play and linking into attack with consummate ease. You only really notice class acts like the Brazilian when they don’t play and the team just isn’t the same.
After the chaos of Claudio Bravo in goal last season it was a joy to watch Ederson start attack after attack with accurate throws and incredible passing for a keeper. He is a player who puts the fear of God up the fans strolling around the area on the ball as players bear down on him. But they don’t care when he is this effective with his feet.
Watching the squad troop onto the rostrum, you could see that every player getting a medal had played their part. City’s walk-on performers like Danilo, Fabian Delph, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, young-gun Phil Foden and the departing Yaya Toure would walk into most Premier League teams, yet here they are mainly impact players.
Not a Perfect Season
This hasn’t been a perfect season as the club needs to learn from the Champions League quarter-final where the team got caught cold in the first-leg. They also need to think about the totally unexpected FA Cup defeat at Wigan. The encouraging thing is the fans know that Guardiola will be pouring over videos of those games to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The Premier League title remains the number one priority. Losing in the Champions League will have been disappointing to many fans, but they are comforted by the fact the Premier League is the true test of how good a team is. City ended 25 points clear of Liverpool, or to put it another way, eight wins ahead.
Perhaps the scariest thing about the trophy presentation is just how young this team is. They won the league at a canter without Benjamin Mendy, who has been coming back to his best after a serious injury.
There is never any room for complacency at a club Guardiola runs. If a couple of the rumoured signings come off then City will be even stronger; a terrifying prospect for the opposition who will no doubt be bringing in serious reinforcements next season.
‘Cityitis’ might be cured but there was one last classic City moment.
As the players bounced up and down welcoming Yaya Toure to the presentation stage, they managed to knock the trophy off its perch. The look of horror on young defender Aleks Zinchenko’s face after he nudged it onto the pitch was a priceless moment that will take its rightful place in the City Hall of Infamy.