MICAH RICHARDS: Manchester City have been outstanding in winning the Premier League this year

MICAH RICHARDS: Over the Blue moon! From Pep Guardiola to Phil Foden and Ruben Dias to John Stones, Man City have been outstanding in winning the Premier League this year

  • I predicted back in September that Manchester City would become champions
  • While Liverpool dominated last season, I believe City would come back hungrier
  • Ruben Dias is the man I would pick out as the club’s outstanding player
  • While Phil Foden has been breathtaking – he’s going to improve so much more
  • Guardiola has been absolutely outstanding – he will not stop driving City forward

In the first column I wrote for Sportsmail, back on September 12, I predicted Manchester City would win the Premier League.

I made it clear that if Liverpool ran away with the title again we would have to describe them as one of the greatest sides the Premier League has ever seen. 

What they did last season was off the charts but there was one reason I believed that City would outgun them: hunger.

This year belongs to Man City – Pep Guardiola has been absolutely outstanding as manager

When you have been a champion, to see someone else celebrating with ‘your’ trophy feels like a punch in the stomach. I could see how much it had hurt City’s players when they had to give Liverpool a guard of honour at the Etihad Stadium last July.

They would have felt almost humiliated having to do that. I remember seeing Bernardo Silva reluctant to shake hands that night and the expression written all over his face was clear: we cannot let this happen again.

City might have been favourites to win the title — and they may have had the best resources at their disposal — but none of that means anything unless you have the desire to go with it. Even though they started slowly (the 5-2 defeat by Leicester was a wake-up call) behind the scenes they meant business.

As a fan, you never get tired of hearing your team being labelled as champions of England

As a fan, you never get tired of hearing your team being labelled as champions of England

There was a point in November when Tottenham had gone top of the league and people began saying that it could be Jose Mourinho’s year — especially after they had beaten City 2-0 — but I always believed that it would be foolish to write off City.

Everything changed once they began keeping clean sheets. I never lost faith that John Stones would recapture his best form and the partnership he has formed with Ruben Dias has been the bedrock on which this successful challenge was formed.

Dias is the man I would pick out as City’s outstanding player. The conversation about ‘will there ever be another Vincent Kompany?’ is over now; Dias is not ‘the next Vincent Kompany’, he’s just a sensational defender and is going to be at the heart of this team for years to come.

I must mention Phil Foden, too. The time was right for Pep Guardiola to let him loose and his response has been breathtaking. I love this kid and it’s frightening to think that he is going to get even better the more he matures.

Summer signing Ruben Dias is the man I would pick out as Man City’s outstanding player

Summer signing Ruben Dias is the man I would pick out as Man City’s outstanding player

Phil Foden has been breathtaking – it’s frightening to think he's going to get even better

Phil Foden has been breathtaking – it’s frightening to think he’s going to get even better

This has been a season like no other, for many reasons, but City’s players — and their manager — deserve the utmost credit for the mental strength they have shown and the ability they have displayed to have the trophy in safekeeping from as far back as the end of February.

Guardiola has been absolutely outstanding. This is a team that has lacked a striker, and I expressed my concerns about them being short in that department in December, but they have sailed past nearly every challenge with such elegance.

If the players have shown their mental strength, so too has Guardiola. Do not forget he lost his mother, tragically, during the pandemic but he has found it within himself to keep going. He is obsessed with the pursuit of achieving football perfection and he will not stop driving City forward.

It would have been fascinating to see how things panned out had Liverpool not suffered such issues with injuries. I could not speak more highly of Liverpool and how they have performed over the last three years and it’s a shame, in some respects, that it never went according to plan.

This year belongs to Man City – they've sailed past nearly every challenge with such elegance

This year belongs to Man City – they’ve sailed past nearly every challenge with such elegance

When we won the first title in 2012, ourselves and Manchester United went head-to-head with no excuses, and to beat them on goal difference in such a tight finish made it all the sweeter. You want your rivals at full strength and next season will be intriguing.

This year, however, belongs to Manchester City. There is still the promise of the Champions League final to come but, for the moment, being champions of England — again — is a label you would never get tired of hearing.

This City fan is not alone in being over a Blue moon.

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PSG: Kylian Mbappe given THREE out of 10 in L’Equipe’s Champions League ratings 

Kylian Mbappe given THREE out of 10 in L’Equipe’s savage Champions League ratings… as they claim PSG striker ‘did not exist’ in first leg defeat to Man City (in which he had LESS touches than City goalkeeper Ederson!)

Kylian Mbappe was savaged as ‘non-existent’ and awarded a match low score of 3/10 by French newspaper L’Equipe after Paris Saint-Germain suffered defeat in their Champions League semi-final first leg with Manchester City.

The 22-year-old, who was the star of the previous round against Bayern Munich, failed to register a single shot on target against City at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe had recovered from injury to play but found his explosiveness nullified against City’s defensive pairing of John Stones and Ruben Dias – and L’Equipe were far from impressed with the striker’s contribution. 

Kylian Mbappe endured a torrid evening in the Champions League on Wednesday night

L'Equipe's savage ratings gave the PSG striker a 3/10 for his showing at the Parc des Princes

L’Equipe’s savage ratings gave the PSG striker a 3/10 for his showing at the Parc des Princes

L'Equipe's front cover on Thursday focused on the PSG wall which split for City's second goal

L’Equipe’s front cover on Thursday focused on the PSG wall which split for City’s second goal

It was the first Champions League match Mbappe has started in his young career that he failed to register a single shot on target.

He was so peripheral to proceedings, in fact, that he managed just 30 touches, a game low for starters on both sides. For context, City goalkeeper Ederson finished with 31 touches in the 2-1 win for the English side.  

Mbappe’s form was good, eight goals in five games before City crossed the channel, and so his confidence was sky-high. 

But this was a reality check in the biggest moment and he will be expected to make up for it with a thrilling performance in the return leg. 

Mbappe (left) was kept in check by John Stones (right) as he failed to have a shot on target

Mbappe (left) was kept in check by John Stones (right) as he failed to have a shot on target

Mauricio Pochettino (right) was at a loss to explain why PSG's stars failed to fire at their best

Mauricio Pochettino (right) was at a loss to explain why PSG’s stars failed to fire at their best

L’Equipe’s judgement of Mbappe’s first leg contribution was so scathing, he was rated lower than Idrissa Gueye, who was shown a straight red in the second half for a nasty challenge down the back of Ilkay Gundogan’s Achilles.

Neymar and Leandro Paredes, who both impressed in a dominant first 45 minutes, finished with ratings of 4/10, as did goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who came in for criticism for his positioning for the equalising goal by Kevin De Bruyne. 

Despite playing a key role in keeping Mbappe on the edge of the action, Stones’ performance did little to impress those in L’Equipe’s HQ as the City centre back was awarded a 5/10 for his 90-minute contribution.

Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker, both of which found life very tricky at full-back against Neymar and Angel Di Maria, finished with 4/10 scores – not that they will care too much as City took a major step towards the final in Istanbul.

Mistakes cost PSG as they imploded second half and boss Mauricio Pochettino was at a loss to explain just what happened.

Man City 'keeper Ederson (right) finished the night with more touches (31) than Mbappe (30)

Man City ‘keeper Ederson (right) finished the night with more touches (31) than Mbappe (30)

Joao Cancelo (right) was given the runaround all evening and he scored a City-low 4/10 score

Joao Cancelo (right) was given the runaround all evening and he scored a City-low 4/10 score

‘It is difficult for them to explain why we were better in the first half, but they were more consistent in second half,’ he told BT Sport.

‘I think it was difficult for us to cope with the demand and the physical condition. 

‘They were a little bit more aggressive, and it was difficult for us to recover the ball, sometimes it was a lot of possession for Manchester City, and of course it made it difficult to play.

‘We didn’t show the energy you need when you recover the ball to keep possession and try to force them go deep.’ 

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John Stones ‘in advanced talks with Manchester City over huge £39m contract extension’

John Stones ‘in advanced talks with Manchester City over huge £39m contract extension’ with the defender set to sign a five-year £150,000-a-week deal after re-establishing himself in Pep Guardiola’s squad

  • John Stones is in talks over a five-year contract extension with Man City 
  • The centre back’s new deal is said to be worth £150,000-per-week
  • The defender has re-established himself as a key part of Pep Guardiola’s squad
  • The 26-year-old was also recalled to Gareth Southgate’s England squad in March 

John Stones is in ‘advanced talks’ with Manchester City over a new five-year contract worth £39million, according to reports.

The defender, who was re-called to the England squad in March, has re-established himself as a key part of Pep Guardiola’s squad after falling down the pecking order at the Etihad in recent seasons.

And according to The Sun, his performances are set to be rewarded with a new long-term deal worth £150,000-a-week.

John Stones is in ‘advanced talks’ with Manchester City over a new five-year contract

The report also claims that he will be handed number of incentives and bonuses for trophies, appearances and clean sheets. 

It comes after Kevin De Bruyne signed an extension until 2025 earlier this month.

The midfielder negotiated an increase on his £300,000-a-week wages to become one of the highest paid players in the top flight.

The 26-year-old defender is set to sign an extension worth £150,000-per-week

The 26-year-old defender is set to sign an extension worth £150,000-per-week

Stones, who is out of contract in 2022, was linked with moves away from the Etihad before his return to form this season.

Alongside £65m man Ruben Dias, the centre back has been a reliable figure in the heart of City’s defence, which has kept 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season. 

He has also provided a threat from set pieces with five goals in all competitions. 

Guardiola has regularly praised Stones for his performances this season and claimed he ‘grew up’ playing alongside summer signing Dias.

‘Every player needs confidence but all the credit is just for him (Stones),’ Guardiola said in January.

Pep Guardiola has reguarly praised the centre back for his performances this season

Pep Guardiola has reguarly praised the centre back for his performances this season

‘If I have one player I’m pleased everything is going well for, it’s him. He deserves the best. He overcame this situation all himself. He’s playing because he deserves it and I’m happy for him.

‘John, alongside Ruben (Dias), grew up.’

City are on course for their fifth Premier League title this season and take on Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday. 

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