Take a breath. Manchester City are English Premier League champions after two stoppage-time goals against Queens Park Rangers lifted them from the depths of heartbroken despair to the promised land.
It was, without doubt, the most remarkable climax to an English season we’ve seen.
Only Arsenal‘s 2-0 win at Liverpool to finish the 1988-89 campaign bears comparison, but the context of City’s aching 44-year wait for a title—coupled with their decades spent cowering in the shadow of Manchester United—wins out.
With 90 minutes up at the Etihad, City were unfathomably—almost miraculously—losing 2-1. This was despite QPR being reduced to 10 men and barely venturing into City’s half, but for their two goals.
Meanwhile, United were winning 1-0 at Sunderland. As things stood, the red half of Manchester was gearing up for the most unexpected and relished of celebrations. A 20th league title would be theirs—if only QPR could hold out for five minutes more.
By that point, some City fans had already left the grounds in tears. Others were crying their hearts out from their seats. One man was pictured throwing his arms around like a toddler in the midst of a temper tantrum.
On the touchline, Roberto Mancini’s emotions were a mirror for the blue nation. The Italian was beside himself with frustration and anger, willing his team forward with the ferocious insistence of a man fighting for his very life.
At start of the day, City were runaway favorites to win the club’s first title since 1968. With five minutes to go of their season, Mancini’s team were rank outsiders.
Humiliation and heartbreak loomed large, not to mention the rampant ridicule of every Red on the planet. Had they handed the title to United, City’s implosion would have been hard to move on from. And that 6-1 win at Old Trafford would have counted for nothing.
And then came hope, in the form of substitute Edin Dzeko’s header—90 seconds or so into the five added minutes.
And then came elation, as Sergio Aguero evaded his marker to shoot diagonally across Paddy Kenny and send 45,000 or so tortured souls into a frenzy of joyous celebration.
With just over a minute left of an enthralling 38-game season, Aguero’s right boot had won City the title.
As the news reached the Stadium of Light, where Wayne Rooney’s goal had secured United a 1-0 win, Sir Alex Ferguson and players lived City’s emotions of the day in reverse.
United had expected nothing, then everything. And their ultimate disappointment will be all the more delightful for City fans to enjoy.
Ferguson had said it would take “something stupid” for United to win a 13th Premier League title of his reign, and he very nearly got it.
But just like Ferguson’s teams of old, City found a way. And nobody can deny Mancini’s team are deserving champions on the balance of the season.
City have been the best team in England and the better team in Manchester, and Ferguson now has a very big question to answer next season.
But the implications of “Survival Sunday” didn’t stop at the title race.
Arsenal’s come-from-behind 3-2 win at West Brom meant they finished the season in third, thus confirming a spot in the Champions League next season.
Tottenham beat Fulham 2-0 to secure fourth, but Harry Redknapp’s team will have to wait on Chelsea‘s fate in the Champions League final to find out which of Europe’s competitions they enter next season.
If Chelsea triumph, Spurs will play in the Europa League. If they lose to Bayern Munich, it’s the Champions League for Tottenham.
Newcastle will definitely be in the Europa League, after their 3-1 defeat at Everton ended any hope of finishing higher than fifth.
At the opposite end of the table, it was relegation for Bolton, who could only draw 2-2 at Stoke when they needed a victory.
That result meant Mark Hughes’ QPR stayed afloat despite the loss to City.
All in all, it was quite the eventful afternoon.