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
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
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
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.