MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Thrown into the air by his jubilant Manchester City players, Manuel Pellegrini was a league winner at last in Europe with the skeptics silenced.
"It's a great experience," Pellegrini said after Sunday's title-clinching 2-0 win over West Ham. "It's not easy to come to the Premier League — the most difficult league in the world."
Lifting the trophy on Sunday was a victory for dignity over divisiveness for the composed Chilean, and his brand of attractive, expansive football.
"He wanted us to play attacking, and we've scored a lot of goals this year as well as being tight at the back," midfielder James Milner said. "The players adapted, which is never easy."
It's never easy adapting to English management either, but Pellegrini is the first manager from outside of Europe to win the country's top division.
What must the City fans who greeted Pellegrini's appointment with such abuse a year ago be thinking now?
"You can stick Manuel Pellegrini," was the expletive-free section of the chant that reverberated around Wembley Stadium at the FA Cup final exactly a year ago after it leaked before the Wigan humiliation that Roberto Mancini was to be replaced. City fans were incensed that the manager who ended their 44-year wait for an English title was being discarded for a south American who had amassed titles on his own continent — in Argentina and Ecuador — but failed to win a major honor during a decade in Spain.
Supporters might have been smitten with the suave Italian, but City's hierarchy recognized that Mancini's chaotic reign had to end. Pellegrini has restored unity to the club and avoided feuds with rivals to become this season's dullest manager. Not good news for headline writers but profitable for City, which is now celebrating a domestic double for the first time in its 134-year history.
"Together," read the mosaic formed by fans on seats before Sunday's finale at the Etihad Stadium, encapsulating life at City under Pellegrini.
Beating a struggling Sunderland side in the League Cup final was the minimum required at a club that has benefited from more than $1 billion of investment in players in the six years under Abu Dhabi ownership. For the 60-year-old Pellegrini, who failed to win trophies with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga to match his exploits at home, the hoodoo in Europe was over.
Still, falling short in the Premier League after easily outspending rivals, would have been inexcusable — especially when that will soon lead to sanctions for breaching UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.
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