London, May 13: Kevin De Bruyne suggested Manchester City's Premier League title hopes would have petered out had they not beaten rivals Liverpool in January.
A 4-1 final-day victory at Brighton and Hove Albion on Sunday ensured Pep Guardiola's side retained their crown by a point from Jurgen Klopp's Reds.
The 98 and 97 amassed by City and Liverpool are the second and third-highest points totals achieved in Premier League history, behind the 100 De Bruyne and his team-mates collected in 2017-18.
It underlines a race of fine margins but, when Liverpool arrived at the Etihad Stadium after the turn of the year with a seven-point lead, they were in danger of running away with it.
Sergio Aguero put City in front after John Stones' remarkable goal-line clearance and, although Roberto Firmino levelled matters in a tense affair, Leroy Sane snatched a 2-1 victory for the hosts.
"The main game was the Liverpool one," De Bruyne said, as quoted by the Manchester Evening News. "We said that if we win that game there is everything to play for.
"To be fair I said before the season started that I saw Liverpool as the main contenders because they bought really well and only had a few missing players from last year.
"They did really well and to be where they are in the Champions League final … if we didn't win [the Premier League], they deserved to win it.
"What they did is an incredible thing because after our last two points tallies, they are the third highest in the Premier League.
"We know the mental and physical strength you need to do that."
C H A M P I O N S pic.twitter.com/PiZdYKlJvX— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) May 12, 2019
City handed Liverpool the initiative once more when they lost 1-2 at Newcastle United at the end of January but they did not falter again – winning all 14 of their remaining Premier League games.
"To end it the way we did, winning 14 in a row, is an unbelievable thing as the Premier League is not that easy," De Bruyne said.
"It's tough to win every game. But we did it, and it's a beautiful thing."
City could end the campaign in historic fashion this Saturday, when victory over Watford in the FA Cup final would see them become the first team to secure a domestic treble in English football.
On a personal level, however, it has been a tough season for De Bruyne.
Player of the year for City last term, the Belgium midfielder has been laid low by a pair of medial knee ligament strains and subsequent muscular injuries.
"It's been a rollercoaster for me, but I was very surprised when I saw the statistic that I had played 30 games [31 in all competitions], because my feeling was that I have been injured the whole year," he added.
"It means everything I have done to help the team is good – I am proud of this team and that I could help one way or another."