For City fans, Manchester City’s inexplicably flat and anemic performance in the FA Cup Final on Saturday harked back to the bad old days of following the club. The match, eagerly anticipated by City supporters was preceded, the very same morning, by reports that Roberto Mancini, the manager who brought silverware back to the club after a 35 year wait, was to be replaced by Chilean coach Manuel Pellegrini.
The work City’s owners have done building up the image of professionalism and respect took a big hit as Mancini was undermined on the day of the cup final. Are Sheikh Mansour and co right to be lining up Pellegrini to replace the popular Italian? I will weigh up their respective merits.
Roberto Mancini can already count himself as Manchester City’s second most successful ever coach, after Joe Mercer, who led the great City side of the late sixties and early seventies to the League title, League Cup, FA Cup and European Cup Winners Cup. However, Mancini’s success has been fuelled by City’s new wealth.
However this does not give enough credit to the way Mancini came in and instilled City with a sense of professionalism and steel on the pitch. He came in with a difficult job to do. Mark Hughes had spent the Abu Dhabi millions in a spectacularly misguided fashion, and City were far from being a cohesive unit. Under Mancini, they undoubtedly became this, arguably for the first time since the days of Joe Mercer.
Mancini was extremely popular with fans. Those singing his name at Wembley on Saturday did so out of support and affection for the suave Italian. There was a strong belief amongst fans that this summer, and next season, was an exceptional opportunity to finally have the advantage over rivals Manchester United in terms of stability.
With the greatest manager in the history of British football leaving Old Trafford, this was a unique situation whereby City might have actually been a more stable and secure club with Mancini at the helm, especially considering Ferguson’s replacement at United, David Moyes, has never won a major trophy.
Manchester City’s fans adoration for Mancini does ignore the problems that have persisted during his reign. His failure to succeed in Europe is the major issue. Despite being drawn in a group with Champions League finalists in both of Mancini’s European campaigns, the performances, especially against Ajax this season, have been poor.
Mancini’s critics argue that the continental failures have been caused by the Italian’s tactical rigidity, and inability to motivate players, both of which were also shown in the Cup Final against Wigan and in the league campaign this season. Manuel Pellegrini is known as being a ‘nice guy’ manager, who earns the respect and affection of his players, which is then transferred into performances on the pitch.
All the poor performances under Roberto Mancini have been characterised by the opposition appearing to be vastly more motivated and driven than City. The match away at Southampton this season, as well as pretty much every fixture against Everton, are apt demonstrations of this. Pellegrini is also known as a good man-manager, which is an area that has caused Mancini a great deal of problems in Manchester, especially with Carlos Tevez.
Pellegrini is also known to favour the possession based style of game that City’s new director of football, Txiki Begiristain, favours. With the former Barcelona sporting director having replaced Brian Marwood in 2012, it is understandable that the Spaniard may want to ‘appoint his own man’, to use common football parlance.
Mancini’s teams have at times shown a great deal of attacking flair, especially in the first part of the 2011/12 season, characterised by the 1-6 thrashing of Man United, but their has also been a consistent lack of width, which has at times hampered Manchester City’s attempts to break down some of the more stubborn Premier League outfits.