Manchester City were crowned 2020-21 Premier League champions on Tuesday without having to lift so much as a finger.
Instead, the decisive result came at Old Trafford, where an under-strength Manchester United fell 2-1 against Leicester City, ensuring that City’s 10-point lead at the summit is now unassailable.
It is also the second time in recent history that a Manchester City title win has been decided at Old Trafford, after United’s shock home defeat against West Bromwich Albion in 2017-18 confirmed Pep Guardiola’s side as champions.
City now have five Premier League titles tucked neatly under their belt, all of which have come within the last 10 years — including three in the last four.
Here’s a look at those five triumphs, how they unfolded, the major moments and how they rank when stacked against each other.
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After seeing Liverpool run away with things the previous year, City faced the daunting task of playing catch-up with Jurgen Klopp’s gegenpressing buccaneers. Things hardly got off to the perfect start, as Guardiola’s side found themselves wallowing in mid-table after the first few months of the season. After winning just three of their opening eight games, City were down in 13th place in mid-November having mustered fewer league goals than at any stage since 2006. They clambered up to eighth place by Christmas, the lowest rung that any subsequent Premier League champions have ever occupied on Dec. 25.
Premier League 2020-21 (when City won title)
However, as injuries took a heavy toll on the prospects of Klopp’s defending champions, Guardiola’s side soon began to jell as the magic began to course through their collective veins once again. It wasn’t always 100% convincing, but City put together a formidable streak of 27 wins in 28 matches in all competitions as they clawed their way back to the light despite playing with no discernible first-choice striker.
At the point at which they were crowned champions, Ilkay Gundogan was the club’s top scorer in the league (12 goals), with Raheem Sterling the only other play to reach 10 goals for the campaign. Riyad Mahrez (9), Gabriel Jesus (8) and young midfielder Phil Foden (7) are next on the list as City favoured the “share and share alike” approach over funnelling the goals through a main striker. Indeed, club legend Sergio Aguero mustered just two goals in 11 appearances after seeing his involvement hampered by injury, a bout of COVID-19 and demotion down the pecking order in what is to be his final season at the Etihad.
During a thrilling Premier League campaign in which the lead changed hands 25 times, City emerged victorious on the final day despite having only been top of the table for a total of 15 days.
Premier League 2013-14 (final table)
Manuel Pellegrini’s side scored 102 league goals, just one short of the record, with Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Toure finished the season with 20 league goals to his name, as only Daniel Sturridge (21) and Luis Suarez (31) of Liverpool managed to better the City midfielder’s impressive tally.
Indeed, it was Brendan Rodgers’ Reds who looked all but set to end the club’s 24-year wait for a league championship, only for a costly Steven Gerrard slip and a dreadful capitulation against Crystal Palace in back-to-back games to allow City to nip above them at the buzzer. City overtook Liverpool in matchweek 37 thanks to a run of five consecutive victories, with their season culminating with a 2-0 win over West Ham that sealed a second Premier League title in three seasons.
Guardiola broke new ground with City as his side became the first in English football history to complete a domestic treble of the league, FA Cup, and EFL Cup in one season. Seeking to defend their title, City found themselves seven points behind Liverpool at the turn of the year but eventually ate up that ground to retain the Premier League on the final day of the season. City finished top of the table on 98 points after winning their final 14 matches, thus ensuring the Reds ended the campaign in second despite losing only one game all season and amassing the third-highest points total (97) in Premier League history.
Premier League 2018-19 (final table)
The defining moment of City’s season came in the penultimate match when, presiding over a precarious one-point lead at the top, they almost came unstuck against a dogged Leicester City side that seemed intent on spoiling the fun. City and Liverpool had exchanged the lead 32 times heading into matchweek 37, with the former needing a victory against the Foxes to ensure they went into their final game at Brighton with a one-point lead and therefore in full control of their destiny.
However, tensions soon reached an almost unbearable pitch as Guardiola’s team repeatedly tried and failed to break down the Foxes’ deep-lying defensive line. With 20 minutes remaining and City floundering, it looked like the pendulum might be about to swing back in Liverpool’s favour. Then captain Vincent Kompany did something extraordinary. In what was to be one of his last appearances for City, the veteran Belgian centre-back unleashed chaos from 25 yards (despite Aguero’s pleas) and clattered a thunderous shot in off the crossbar to set City back on course. Relieved of all pressure, Kompany & Co. went on to crush Brighton 4-1 in their last fixture of the season to bring home Premier League title No. 4.
Delivered ✅ https://t.co/cwPa7jvMdX pic.twitter.com/mzhj8zlNax
— Manchester City (@ManCity) March 15, 2020
City’s third Premier League triumph saw them firmly establish their place at the pinnacle, with Guardiola masterminding not only a title win but also a mass obliteration of the record books. After finishing third the previous year, Guardiola’s all-conquering team hit the ground running before going on to shatter numerous long-standing records, most notably becoming the first and so far only champions to amass 100 points from a single English top-flight season.
The Centurions of City won the league with five games to spare, ultimately sealing the title with the biggest winning margin in history (19 points) while also racking up the most overall wins (32), the most away wins (16), most goals scored (106), and highest-ever goal difference (+79).
Premier League 2017-18 (final table)
Aguero led the scoring charts for City with 21 goals though Sterling also contributed his fair share, racking up 18 of his own in a strong individual season for the forward. Kevin De Bruyne led the league in assists (16) though the chart was dominated by City players as Leroy Sane (15), David Silva (11) and Sterling (11) populated the next three slots overall. This incredibly prodigious creativity saw City put together a winning streak of 18 matches right at the very start of the season which lasted until January. This stills stands as a Premier League record, though it has since been matched (by Liverpool in 2019-20).
City rose to the top of the table in September and promptly locked down first place for themselves, steadfastly clinging to the summit for the remainder of the campaign. There was a brief wobble in early April when, needing a win to secure their position as champions, Guardiola’s team lost 3-2 against Manchester United in the derby. However, City’s celebrations were delayed by just eight days until United slumped to a 1-0 home defeat against bottom side West Brom to formally hand the title to their “noisy neighbours” with five games to spare.
After wrapping up the title on May 6, it took a stoppage-time winner from Gabriel Jesus against Southampton on the final day of the season to make sure City passed the 100-point mark with mere seconds left to do so — as has become their trademark.
A true watershed moment for City, and for English football, saw Roberto Mancini’s side seal the club’s first-ever Premier League title and their first top-flight championship for 44 years, and all in the most dramatically satisfying of circumstances.
Under Mancini, City outscored everybody in the league, regularly racking up four and five goals per game and even reaching six goals on a couple of occasions — the most memorable being their outrageous 6-1 pummelling of Manchester United in the first derby of the season. Mario Balotelli found the net twice at Old Trafford, famously revealing a t-shirt asking “Why Always Me?” after scoring the opener.
Despite winning their final six games of the season by an aggregate of 18-3, the title still went to the wire with City needing to match United’s result against Sunderland on the final day to pip their rivals to glory.
Come the 90th minute of the final game of the season, City were trailing 2-1 at the Etihad against relegation-battling Queens Park Rangers with their title aspirations in tatters. Four minutes of pure pandemonium later, they were lifting the trophy.
Aguero’s magic bullet in the final few seconds of stoppage time proved to be the difference in what is still the only Premier League title race to be decided on goal difference. It also signalled a paradigm shift in English football, as City went from also-rans, to potential disruptors, to title winners for the first time since the arrival of owner Sheikh Mansour in 2008.
They’ve hardly looked back since.