Up stepped Sterling though, and found a yard of pace from nowhere before chipping a delicious ball to the back post for Gundogan to head home with conviction. Then came Zinchenko, finding Rodri to slot home an equaliser and send the crowd wild.
Who was at the back post again minutes later as Kevin De Bruyne put the ball invitingly across the posts? Gundogan. Three second-half changes had a hand in all three goals.
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Liverpool have shown this season – and especially since Luis Diaz signed – that they perhaps have the strongest squad in the league now, but what a way for City to show their strength in depth.
For years, City have written their own scripts in the league. Guardiola's side have set new standards and given a modern definition to Typical City.
On the final day, after 37 rounds of excellence, they succumbed at the last. The players forgot their usual standards in the crucible of the occasion, and looked to have allowed former Liverpool player Philippe Coutinho and former Liverpool player Steven Gerrard to help crush their season and set Jurgen Klopp's side up for an unprecedented Quadruple.
But up stepped the team, and Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez were all coaching the players through the final minutes from the touchline, mimicking Guardiola, to get the game won.
Character and quality shone through in the end.
This was the fourth time City have been involved in the title race on the final day but never have they been stronger favourites. Having come from behind in 2012, 2014 and 2019, it felt like there was less expectation than this time where they have basically led the field since early December.
Guardiola got the welcome he wanted from the boisterous fans before the game, but having worked themselves up into a frenzy all that energy turned into nerves. To borrow from the Gerrard catalogue, surely they could not let this slip?
And yet they did. To be fair to the fans, they dealt with the occasion better than the players in that first half as the gameplan inexplicably went out of the window and passes that had been completed thousands of times over in the season were suddenly going askew.
Guardiola tried his best, giving advice during breaks in play or applauding the good and bad for encouragement, but it was the break for half-time that really came to City's rescue as they looked a different team after it.
There was nothing other than personal pride (and maybe a few more million quid) riding on their final performances of the season but Villa and Wolves did anything but lie down against the title contenders