Julian Boland reviews the final weeks of Manchester City's title triumph - and the three miracles needed to lift the Premier League crown.
"Now that we are here, it doesn't matter where we are playing, we have to get a result and win it because it's a miracle we are still here." These words spoken by Manchester City's midfield maestro Samir Nasri echoed the thoughts of City players and fans alike about where they were positioned in the 38 lap race that was the Barclay's Premier League.
Each lap represented a tough match in the most exciting football league in the world, and just as Nasri put it, no matter who you are, you have to agree it was miraculous campaign for City. This season was extraordinary, like no other, and will not be forgotten for some time. It saw a Theatre of Dreams turn to a Stadium of Despair, a blue fortress in London lucked out by Black Cats, and a Red Merseyside team soar too close to the Sun.
The coveted place at the top of the Barclay's Premier League table nursed many worn out and wounded soldiers, from a Liverpool team punching above their weight to a team that plays 'anti-football', but in the end, City finished in the position that had slipped from their grip multiple times, like keys stuck in a drain.
When the race hit the green light, Manchester City were positioned at the front, favourites to take the silverware. They were guilty of a £100 million spending spree, the only other club rivaling them being Tottenham, but what won the title for City was something money couldn't buy, miracles, and three single miracles stand out:
SLAYING THE BEAST
In what was thought to be a match in which City would run away with, THEY were left dazed and weakened after captain Vincent Kompany was sent off after a short thirteen minutes against a mid-table Hull City. With a point looking like the best result away from home and a man down, City disregarded this handicap and lived up to their mantra, 'Pride in Battle'. David Silva opened the scoring for the Sky Blues with beautiful finesse, good enough for any highlight reel. In battle, instead of hiding behind the shield, blocking swipes and attacks, they grabbed the sword and slayed the tiger.
In victory, the Sky Blues showed off the head of the fallen beast, and in doing so, proved they were champions without the trophy, champions in waiting. If this match was played earlier in the season under the same circumstances, you would be forgiven in believing Hull would be the team taking the three points and displaying the head of their fallen enemy, but to Manchester City's credit, they turned their away fortunes around and rode their luck to the final whistle.
SUNDERLAND DEFEAT CHELSEA
In what was the first of City's major miracles featuring Chelsea, the Black Cats rode their luck from the Etihad and for the second time in a week impacted the title race. Gus Poyet's side were favourites for the drop, but after sucker-punching a ghostly Manchester City, the Uruguayan's side had unfinished business. Connor Wickham, the man who slowed down City, struck again against another title chaser, scoring the equalizer against Chelsea. Fabio Borini, the Italian on loan from Liverpool coolly dispatched a penalty to down the European giants, thinking he was moving his parent club a step closer to the title. This shock win would knock out a title contender, give one hope, and lead to another's demise. Now, just to match the teams with the proper outcomes; Chelsea were the team knocked out, City were given hope, and Liverpool had been lead to demise, but how?
The result meant Chelsea would now just focus on their Champions League semi-final tie with Atletico Madrid, meaning Jose Mourinho would rest players. Brendan Rodgers thought this would go to his side's advantage, but it didn't. He perhaps underestimated Chelsea's 'B-side' and instead of playing for the draw he was tempted by Mourinho like the serpent tempted Eve with the forbidden fruit, and just like the latter, he paid the price.
JOSE MOURINHO'S LOCK-DOWN
When Manchester City left Anfield, they were shadows. The players had fought against the Liverpool players and fans like Leonidas and his army of 300 against the thousands of Persians, and it just about killed them. When Sunderland traveled to the Etihad in one of the two games the Sky Blues had in hand for what seemed an eternity, everyone looked to see a response from the title chasers. In what was a game that saw the familiar mojo of City at their home missing, the Black Cats sucker punched the aspiring champions with a 2-2 draw. Now three points behind Liverpool, Manchester City had to call a favour from an unlikely source, Jose Mourinho. The 'Special One' had applied lock-down to City twice in the league, securing 1-0 wins on both occasions. Chelsea were out of the title race, and the man himself stated he would start a B-team against the league leaders to rest key players for the Champions League. City looked to be chasing false rainbows in thinking Mourinho would halt Liverpool, but they found the pot of gold at the end. Chelsea secured an unforgettable vintage 'Special One' 2-0 away win, Liverpool flying too close to the Sun. With a 2-0 away win against an in-form Crystal Palace, the Citizens were back in the hot seat. Having been crossed out and re-written as title favourites in the space of one week, Manuel Pellegrini owes a certain Portuguese someone a phone call.
The Barclay's Premier League is the most exciting league in the world, and in order to lift the trophy in the future, a team needs top players, a top manager, top results and a few miracles along the way, with the new champions having displayed all those aspects at their disposal this campaign.