Champions Manchester City make title race look easy

Manchester City's Samir Nasri celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.
Manchester City's Samir Nasri celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester.
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There was no frantic finale to a scintillating season this time: Manchester City simply glided to the Barclays Premier League title with exquisite timing.

It mattered not a jot that City had spent a mere 11 days at the pinnacle of the league table all season, only that they were there - in true football speak - at the end of the day.

It has been a remarkable season: an unprecedented 25 changes of the lead at the top, with each challenger enduring in turn swings of outrageous fortune.

It was only when the pressure reached peak intensity that it became clear which men were able to keep their head when all about were losing theirs, and those men where wearing the sky blue of Manchester City.

The climax against West Ham became almost a procession to a 2-0 victory.

Unlike the tension that so inhibited City on that unforgettable afternoon when they won the league at the Etihad two years ago, this time there was an aura of confidence and the rousing rendition of Blue Moon before kick-off contained more than a note of celebration.

The realisation has now dawned, and not least on the players, that this is not the Manchester City of old, who hung on tenaciously to that reputation for flakiness even during that first title-winning season under Roberto Mancini. The only choke here was the grip that City had on the Premier League trophy.

Under their Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini - who incidentally secured his first European title and became the first non-European to win the top flight in England as a manager - City have become calmer, more confident and more clinical.

The afternoon began under troubled skies as sunshine battled storm clouds for supremacy. On the pitch however, there was no such competition - City took the approach that victory was their divine right against a West Ham side looking as makeshift as their away kit.

Urged on by the indomitable Yaya Toure, and prompted by the silky skills of David Silva, City exuded patience, control and determination. After three-quarters of the game the possession statistics were 70-30 in the home side’s favour.

The negativity that sometimes characterised the Mancini era has been eclipsed by Pellegrini’s approach, and some of the moves against West Ham were little short of mesmeric.

Some mouthwatering one-touch football whetted appetites, as Silva eventually volleyed over from Pablo Zabaleta’s cross.

Then Toure, with a bending, scooped shot and Aleksandar Kolarov with a piledriver from 30 yards that was tipped over, gave warning of the main course.

That came courtesy of man of the match Samir Nasri, advancing menacingly on the edge of the area and then ramming in a shot off the post that left Adrian in the Hammers goal flat-footed. It was the highlight of a sumptuous performance by the midfielder, and made it all the more mystifying why his place in France’s World Cup squad is by no means secure.

Silva saw his deflected shot bounce back off the angle just before half-time, but the break brought little relief for the visitors.

The contest, the match, the whole season was effectively over - and no matter what was happening at Anfield - when a corner bounced of Edin Dzeko’s back and City’s captain Vincent Kompany swivelled and fired home.

There were other chances to add to this rich feast - Sergio Aguero somehow failed to put away an incisive cross, while Nasri forced Adrian into a good save with his legs - while City continued to deny Sam Allardyce and his men any treat to sweeten the bitter pill of defeat.

The final whistle did not bring the same delirium of two years ago, that of victory snatched from defeat, more a sense of satisfaction for City that they are more than worthy champions.

This was not joy unconfined for City - not least because UEFA’s sanctions for financial fair play breaches may contrive to rain on their victory parade on Monday - but with the kind of self-belief Pellegrini has instilled, there is no reason why they cannot embark on the kind of period of domination more associated with the other side of Manchester.