Manchester City were handed a straightforward task to retain their crown, making it six titles. They had to beat Aston Villa – one more home win in an outstanding league season.
There was one serious problem when this potential storyline was scripted.
Manchester City do not do routine. Straightforward is a stranger to them. Give them a mile and quite often they will take an inch. History should have told us this would not be as simple as logic suggested.
And so it proved as City, lethargic and lacking in inspiration, found themselves 2-0 down to Villa with 15 minutes left.
Thirty-five miles away at Anfield, Liverpool were drawing 1-1 with Wolves so all was not lost – but the smart money was on the Reds scoring again in front of the Kop and winning, which they eventually did.
Guardiola’s frantic touchline body language underlined the scale of the task at hand. City had to score three times in those final 15 minutes or they would end the season without a trophy – an undeniable failure for a team and manager of such talents.
The twists in the tale were obvious.
Aston Villa manager Steven Gerrard was helping Liverpool win the one major prize he was unable to win himself at Anfield, his own title tales of woe epitomised by his infamous slip against Chelsea in April 2014 that allowed Manchester City to spirit the title away at the last gasp.
The fact that another Liverpool old boy, Philippe Coutinho, had scored the goal that looked like it might finish City’s title ambitions only added to the drama.
And then it happened. A comeback and title win that was thrilling and unlikely even by Manchester City’s standards.
The club recently unveiled a statue to Sergio Aguero, the striker who scored the famous last-day goal against Queens Park Rangers after 93 minutes and 20 seconds that gave them their first title in 44 years on goal difference over Manchester United a decade ago.
Sunday’s victory, many might argue, was an even bigger challenge to complete than that day in May 2012 because they faced a superior, fiercely well-organised and dangerous Villa, who looked in complete control.
Etihad Stadium was stunned. This was supposed to be a day of celebration, more than adequate compensation for losing a Champions League semi-final they had in their grasp against Real Madrid.
Not a bit of it.
There was an eerie silence moments after Coutinho struck. City feared the worst but somehow summoned up the character and quality to win a title in circumstances that were dramatic even by their own standards.
The pain of losing their crown would have been even more acute given they had a 14-point advantage over Liverpool on 15 January, only to be stalked every inch of the way by Jurgen Klopp’s side.
What City had stored away was the knowledge of how they edged out Manchester United on the last day of the 2011-12 season, won their last home game to finish above Liverpool in 2013-14 and beat Brighton to fight off Liverpool by a point in 2018-19.
They are battle-hardened in the unique pressures of the Premier League’s final day.
Credit ; BBC