LONDON (Reuters): A week later than they would have preferred Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions on Sunday as second-placed Manchester United suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat by bottom club West Bromwich Albion.
United had to at least draw to keep the title race mathematically alive but they were stunned at Old Trafford when Jay Rodriguez headed home after the break.
City manager Pep Guardiola might have missed one of the proudest moments of his career, however, after admitting on Saturday that he had a round of golf booked with his son and was not planning to watch United’s game.
He would have been as surprised as everyone else that the title, seemingly a foregone conclusion for months, was rubber-stamped in such strange circumstances.
A week after City surrendered a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to United and squander the chance to wrap up the title in perfect style against their arch-rivals, it was relegation-bound West Brom who served it up on a plate.
West Brom had lost eight of their previous nine games and last won on Jan. 13.
“We’ve won the league for you, Man City, Man City,” West Brom’s fans chanted after the final whistle.
City, who rebounded from the United loss and a European exit at the hands of Liverpool by beating Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, have 87 points with five games left.
United have 71 also with five to play.
It is Abu Dhabi-owned City’s third title in seven seasons and their first since former boss Manuel Pellegrini achieved the feat in 2013-14.
Guardiola, who failed to land a trophy in his first season in charge at The Etihad, opened his account by winning the League Cup in February against Arsenal.
But a first Premier League title, to go with the three La Liga titles he won as manager of Barcelona and the three Bundesliga titles he delivered for Bayern Munich, will be particularly satisfying.
He is the first Spanish manager to win the Premier League title — a prize he says is the hardest to claim in Europe.
Not only that but he did it with five games remaining, equalling the English top-flight record of United (1907-08 and 2000-01) and Everton (1984-85).
And it was achieved by playing a brand of football that has had the purists purring all season with City racking up 93 goals so far and on course to top the 100-point barrier.
“We did it in the way we wanted to do,” Guardiola said at Wembley on Saturday. “We have spent a lot of money to have these amazing players, to make that possible.
“These players deserve all my respect because they have been unbelievable all season. “Winning the Premier League is going to be one of the best three seasons I have ever had as a player and as a manager.”
City skipper Vincent Kompany has now won three Premier League titles since joining 10 years ago.
Only two other players have captained more Premier League title winners — Chelsea’s John Terry (five titles) and Manchester United’s former captain Roy Keane (four).
“It’s the same feeling as the first time,” the 32-year-old Belgium international, who unlike his manager did watch the game, told Sky Sports. “You can’t describe it.
“I was talking before the game and I was saying the first time you win it you feel you are going to win all of them and the first time you lose it you feel like you are never going to win it again, so you want to hold on to this feeling.”