Manchester United 'masters in complicated football' vs. West Brom - Jose Mourinho
MANCHESTER, England -- It may actually turn out to be a positive for Manchester City that they were unable to clinch the Premier League title by beating Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium little more than a week ago.
As sweet as such a triumph would have been -- United's 3-2 win, after being 2-0 down, denied their neighbours the title that day -- the emphasis placed on being crowned champions by defeating their bitter rivals might just have overshadowed the true magnitude of City's third domestic championship in six years.
City's supporters are now discovering that winning the title without even playing, courtesy of West Bromwich Albion's unexpected 1-0 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday, does nothing to diminish the joy of planting your flag at the summit while the rest look on enviously below you.
In truth, City have looked down on everyone this season virtually since the first ball was kicked last August. Their dominance of the title race has been so emphatic and convincing that every one of their so-called rivals has been beaten by City at least once, and none of them has been able to prevent Pep Guardiola's team from winning the title with a month to spare.
Had they won it last week against United, that would have defined Guardiola's first title, but City have been so much more than that this season, which is why the long-term uplift of sealing it as they have will do them no harm. It means we can now focus solely on the breathtaking football, the power and vision of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling's development, Leroy Sane's unstoppable surges down the left, Kyle Walker's dominance of the right flank and Guardiola's determination to win his way.
The debate will now rage as to whether this City team is the greatest the Premier League has ever produced, and it is one that has no undisputed answer, with the best teams of United, Arsenal and Chelsea all having their justifiable claim to that title. But what cannot be argued against are the records that City have smashed on their way to the title this season.
They set new English records by recording 18 consecutive league victories, 11 consecutive away wins and 20 successive wins in all competitions. Guardiola's men also broke club records by going 28 games unbeaten in all competitions and, incorporating the end of last season, went 30 games unbeaten and recorded 20 consecutive wins at home.
By winning the title this weekend, they also equalled United's record, set in 2000-01, by clinching it after 33 games. They are still on course to become the first club to hit 100 points in a Premier League season, breaking Chelsea's 2004-05 record haul of 95 points in the process, and they are also in with a chance of surpassing Chelsea's 2009-10 mark of 103 league goals in a season.
Wherever you look, City have broken records or stand on the verge of creating another. United's record winning margin of 18 points, set in 1999-2000, is another that is within City's reach.
Inevitably, it will be the failures of this City team that will irritate Guardiola and his players, at the same time offering the critics the opportunity to find fault.
The home defeat against United, which was sandwiched between the back-to-back Champions League quarterfinal losses to Liverpool, will be held up as a reminder that City can be beaten and perhaps even caught next season, while the FA Cup exit against Wigan Athletic may go down as the game that cost Guardiola and his team a domestic treble.
And Arsenal, in 2003-04, remain the only team to go through a Premier League season unbeaten, so there are some achievements that this City team has been unable to chalk off.
But the manner of their title confirmation is perhaps the best evidence of City's quality and the shortcomings of their rivals.
They travelled to Tottenham on Saturday -- an in-form Tottenham, unbeaten in the league since December -- and tore them apart at Wembley. It was supposed to be a game that would see City stumble again and perhaps suffer a fourth successive defeat, yet they did what all great teams do by winning and winning well.
When the pressure was really on, City delivered, but the same could not be said of their rivals.
Liverpool may be flying now, but their early-season problems killed their challenge before it even began, while Arsenal and Chelsea have been out of the reckoning since the autumn.
Spurs showed flashes, and they might be the closest challengers next season, but they could not sustain it, while United's Jekyll-and-Hyde season was summed up by their defeat against West Brom. Just a week after winning at City, Jose Mourinho's team could not even avoid defeat against the Premier League's bottom club to keep their neighbours waiting a while longer to claim the title.
Only time will tell how good this City team is, and whether they are the best we have ever seen in the Premier League, but one thing that cannot be denied is that they are the best we have right now -- and by some distance.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_
After denying Manchester City a historic title win last weekend, Manchester United only had to avoid defeat against bottom side West Brom to delay their party further. That was beyond them.
The visiting side saw very little of the ball but scored from a corner and United had no answer for it. To lose to the worst team in the league at home is a hugely embarrassing and painful result, given the consequences.
Alexis Sanchez picked up where he left off from the Etihad and put in a great shift for the team. It wasn't enough to make a difference though.
After showing all the heart and determination the fans could ever ask of them last weekend, the players were utterly spineless. There was no real urgency about their game until the second half but even then, Ben Foster didn't have an awful lot to do.
Having been left out of the starting lineup, the young duo of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were thrown on to change the game but made no difference. This was a great opportunity to show the manager they're worthy of more playing time and they blew it.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Jose Mourinho stuck with his formation from the Etihad last week. Made attacking substitutions. Arguably should have left Paul Pogba on and taken Juan Mata off but there can't be many complaints about the way he set the team up.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 6 -- Made a good stop in the first half to keep United from going behind.
DF Antonio Valencia, 5 -- Got forward well but his delivery into the box was largely poor.
DF Chris Smalling, 6 -- Made plenty of good challenges to keep West Brom out. Had a good chance to score himself late on but Foster saved.
DF Victor Lindelof, 6 -- Outmuscled on occasion but made up for it with some decent tackles.
DF Ashley Young, 5 -- Made some brave challenges but was wasteful with possession at times. Taken off for the last quarter of an hour.
MF Ander Herrera, 5 -- Taken off at half-time after a decent enough performance. Worked hard but didn't make much difference.
MF Nemanja Matic, 6 -- Saw lots of the ball and largely protected the defence well.
MF Paul Pogba, 5 -- Booked for a handball in the box. Tried too hard for the spectacular, when shooting from distance, instead of playing it simple. Taken off with half an hour to play.
FW Juan Mata, 5 -- Created a couple of good chances for Romelu Lukaku and had a good opportunity to score himself. Faded dramatically in the second half but Mourinho persisted with him.
FW Alexis Sanchez, 6 -- Repeatedly won back possession and played good balls forward. Lively all game.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 6 -- Denied by Foster from close range, before putting a great ball into the box that no one could get on the end of. A poor first touch took a good chance away from him before half-time. Denied by an excellent save from Foster when his header looked goal-bound. Defensively, lost his marker Jay Rodriguez in the scramble from the West Brom corner that resulted in the decisive goal.
FW Jesse Lingard, 5 -- Replaced Herrera. Had a great effort that was deflected just wide.
FW Anthony Martial, 2 -- Came on for Pogba to make the difference but was poor.
FW Marcus Rashford, N/R -- Played the final 15 minutes in place of Young. Didn't have an impact.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.
MANCHESTER -- Jose Mourinho has congratulated Manchester City on their Premier League title triumph before complaining that his players made Sunday's shock loss to West Brom too "complicated."
City were crowned champions with five games to spare after United lost 1-0 to bottom side West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford.
Mourinho says they are deserved winners but the 55-year-old insists he is the right man to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time since 2013.
"I don't know if I was the first or the second or the third, but I congratulate them face to face when I had the chance to do it," the Portuguese coach told a news conference.
"I know that sooner or later that would be and if I was in that position I would be very upset if somebody say they won the title because Manchester United lost to West Brom. They won the title because they were the best team."
"I trust in my work, that is for sure. I have no reason to not trust because eight titles and three Premier Leagues are three Premier Leagues, and the last was not 20 years ago.
"It was three years ago and I know how to win. I believe in myself but I don't play."
United followed up their dramatic 3-2 win at the Etihad Stadium with a shock defeat to West Brom, who had only won three games all season before kick off.
And Mourinho said the past seven days have highlighted what needs to change if they are to win the league next season.
He added: "Not just the performance level but the mental level, day by day, everything must be consistent, since day one until the last day so one of the things we have to improve is consistency."
West Brom had Ben Foster to thank for two fine saves from Romelu Lukaku either side of half-time before Jay Rodriguez scored the winner 18 minutes from time.
Mourinho substituted Paul Pogba before the hour mark and threw on Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as he went in search of a goal.
After the final whistle, the United manager criticised his players.
"We were masters in complicated football," he said.
"Everything was complicated, we couldn't play fast or think fast, everything was complicated, one more touch to control, one more turn, one more flick, one more trick and we always gave them the opportunity to be solid.
"When we have the ball, we want to run with the ball, we want to dribble, and everything was complicated and probably in our best period where we were moving the ball better and the team was thinking faster and the team had more width was when they scored."
Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.