Roberto Mancini last night described the final moments of Manchester City’s decisive win over QPR as “the best and worst five minutes” of his and his players’ lives as an estimated 100,000 fans lined the streets to witness the team parade the Premier League trophy on an open-top bus tour of the city centre.
City are celebrating their first league title in 44 years after a dramatic last-gasp 3-2 victory over QPR at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Members of the victorious squad were invited to a private reception at Manchester town hall in the afternoon before taking to a stage to greet a huge crowd in the city’s Albert Square.
Controversial striker Mario Balotelli was the only notable absentee but he had been expected to report back to Italy for medical checks after being named in his country’s provisional squad for Euro 2012.
A large media gathering was also present as manager Roberto Mancini and a number of players were invited to address the fans before being driven around town.
Responding to big cheers, Mancini said: “I think we should be proud of these players because they did everything for you (the fans) — they wanted to win this championship for you.”
City’s title success will go down as one of the most dramatic in history, coming only on goal difference after Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero struck in injury time to see off QPR.
Mancini, wearing his trademark club scarf, said: “We had the best and worst five minutes in our lives.
“I think it was an incredible moment after we scored the third goal, but before it was very hard.”
Midfielder Gareth Barry said: “Days like this are why we came to City and it’s just fantastic. Our fans have always been amazing and they’re showing it here today. I’ve got memories I’ll treasure for the rest of my career.”
Goalkeeper Joe Hart said: “It was an incredible day yesterday but the support we’ve seen here on the streets today almost matches it. The fans are brilliant and that they think so much of me means everything. They know this is my club and the only place I want to be.”
Fans had started to gather outside the town hall from mid-afternoon and were treated to big-screen replays of the title-winning goals plus other notable games throughout the season.
City greats Mike Summerbee and Tony Book, members of the club’s last champion side in 1968, spoke to fans along with comedian Jason Manford and actor Warren Clarke, both celebrity fans.
There was also music and other entertainment while blue and white paper streamers were shot into the air in a spectacular display before the players boarded the bus.
Summerbee, who was involved in the trophy presentation party after City’s title-clinching win, said: “The people out here think so much of the club, these are proper supporters. This is what Manchester City is like.”
City’s arch-enemies Manchester United had been moments away from winning their 20th league title when Aguero scored in that sensational finale.
Summerbee said: “It was an amazing day, you couldn’t write the script, but I thought we were going to win all the way through. I kept the faith.”
Also present at the parade was former midfielder Patrick Vieira, who is now the club’s football development executive following his retirement last year.
Vieira said: “I still can’t believe it — losing 2-1 with five minutes to go, it’s unbelievable. All credit to the players for keeping believing in it.”
City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak believes Sunday’s events at the Etihad Stadium have consigned the phrase “typical City” to the dustbin.
For four decades, the Blues became the epitome of failure.
The combination of having to live in the giant shadow of United, coupled with a enduring capacity to capitulate at moments of greatest pressure, created a special aura around a club whose fans used to glory in their misery.
Slowly, though, that image has been shed.
And in roaring back to score twice in injury-time to snatch a Premier League title so many felt was slipping away against QPR yesterday, chairman Khaldoon believes history has been rewritten.
“Everyone will have their own experience of what happened yesterday,” he said. “I don’t think any league will be decided like that for many years to come.
“Maybe some people imagined it was ‘typical City’. We are not typical City. We have destroyed that thought.
“This is not a team that is going to lie down. Now we want to forget about ‘typical City’.
“This club wants to win more than anything and will fight for that until the last kick of the game.”
Khaldoon revealed the course of the season changed after a post-match chat with Mancini last month, immediately after City had suffered a 1-0 defeat that left them eight points adrift of Manchester United with only six matches of the campaign remaining.
“We had two choices,” he said.
“We could either raise the white flag and sulk or pick ourselves up and fight until the last second of this championship. We felt if we could win all our games and have a bit of luck, we could still pull it off. What Roberto did magnificently was to take the pressure off the entire team.”
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