MAN CITY v NORWICH CITY – That was the week that was…

There’s an adage that a week is a long time in politics – they should try applying it to being a Manchester City supporter!

It seems an eternity since Roberto Mancini’s side were on the receiving end of a shock FA Cup Final defeat to the now relegated Pie Eaters of ‘Wi-gone’ – come to think of it, it seems a lifetime since City were Roberto Mancini’s men.

The wounds are still so very raw after the Etihad bloodletting that has seen the man the fans loved, removed as manager of Manchester City.

It’s been seven days of rumour and subsequent revelation as the Italian icon’s marriage to City and a sky blue heaven was unceremoniously dissolved with undue and alarming haste.

There’s quickie divorces…and then there’s being sacked by Manchester City. Yes, there had been almost never ending speculation about the future of Mancini and, what is now rather unkindly being referred to as his ‘Mafia’, but there was still a certain shock factor as events unraveled at the climax of an under-achieving season.

Like the overwhelming majority of City fans, I sang his name from the terraces, I admired him for making my team – Manchester City – for far too long the laughing stock of English football, the Champions of England, and for delivering a beautiful, breathtaking brand of stylish play.

I was – and always will be – eternally grateful to a man who not only implanted a dream in my heart, he actually made the bloody thing come true on May 13, 2012. Unless my mind is obliterated by ill health or annihilated by Alzheimer’s Disease in later years, that electrifying, almost life inducing ‘Aguerooooooo’ moment will never leave me.

For that alone I will always – always – say a heartfelt ‘grazie’ to Roberto Mancini. Similarly, albeit to a slightly lesser degree, I will never forget two glorious single goal Wembley wins en-route to FA Cup glory in May, 2011, and a satisfyingly moist conclusion to a 35-year trophy drought!

It was a measure of the man – cynics might argue an inspired public relations ploy – that Mancini took out a full page advert in the Manchester Evening News this week to say ‘Ciao’ to City’s supporters.

I prefer to think of it as a sincere gesture from an individual who recognised and treasured a special relationship – a certain affinity – with the fans.

Perversely it’s that same selection of ‘stakeholders’ – the ticket-paying fans – who would ordinarily wield most influence on the employment status of a manager of a football club.

Mancini is nigh on unique in the modern game that he was fired despite the backing of the MCFC loving masses. The default mechanism is usually the opposite – the supporters let the Board know in no uncertain times when they’ve tired of the incumbent manager and it’s time for change.

The only other example of recent times that springs to mind is that of Roberto De Matteo at Chelsea…what is it about these Italian chappies that breeds such passion in the rank and file following?

The banners were out in force at Reading on a monsoon-like Tuesday night – ‘GRAZIE MANCINI’ ‘FORZA MANCINI’ ‘BOBBY MANC’ – as the familiar strains of ‘Mancini, whoa, Mancini…’ boomed around the Madejski Stadium.  

It’s a genuine sadness that as we prepare to bring the curtain down with a season finale against Norwich, Mancini is no longer present, if not only for the fans to pay homage to him in person.

Having said all of that, having supported him so vehemently, having sung his name to the rafters, having shared sumptuous moments of celebration, having delighted in his personal presence, having reveled in the whole Roberto rollercoaster ride for the past three-and-a-half years – it has to be said that Mancini’s departure IS right for Manchester City.

Oh I wish it were not so, but as a clearer – ironically murky – picture emerges of life behind the closed doors of Carrington, where the echoes from the Etihad dressing room are now beginning to reach the hearing of the City support, it is crystal clear that fractured relationships and a breakdown in communications meant managerial change was inevitable.

I am not going to rake over the coals of anecdotes, gossip, tittle tattle – call it what you will – that have continued to seep out about arrogance, tantrums and truculence.

All I know is that Mancini will be a major part of Manchester City’s history for eternity. He has built a platform from which Manuel Pellegrini can – and will – take City to a different and stunningly successful level.

Under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour, the stewardship of Khaldoon Al Mubarak and the day-to-day direction of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, Manchester City could not be in better hands.

Their selection of Manuel Pellegrini as the next manager is an inspired and wise choice. Has anyone had a bad word for Mr Pellegrini since his name was mentioned as the man most likely?

The 59-year old Chilean earned the nickname of ‘The Engineer’ – why? That’s easy, he studied engineering at the conclusion of his playing career – boom boom!

However, a more apt application is because he adopts an analytical and intelligent approach when setting out his teams. He is renowned for producing teams with defensive discipline and attacking flair.

He is the epitomy of calm – one might even venture to say ‘cool’ – respected and admired by all. Above else, he has a reputation for superb man-management and motivational skills – in marked contrast to his predecessor – at the Etihad.

He will lead City to the metaphorical equivalent of the sunny climes he will leave behind in Malaga and make the Premier League too hot for the likes of Moyes and Mourinho.

But all of that must go on the backburner as City, under the temporary leadership of  Brian Kidd, aim to end the season on a winning note and conceivably reduce Manure’s winning points margin to a single digit. If City can better the retiring Glaswegian pensioner’s result at the Hawthorns today, it will deliver a more respectable complexion to the final standings.

Joe Hart and his defensive corps will be seeking to clip the Canaries’ wings and keep a 19th clean sheet – the best record for a third year running in the PL. The Sky Blue rearguard have conceded 31 goals all season, six fewer than the next best defence.

Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic could return after missing the 2-0 win at Reading.  Pablo Zabaleta should also be back after suspension and Gael Clichy could be celebrating signing his new four-year deal in the left wing back position.

Injury could rule out Kolo Toure from a farewell appearance as his four years at the club draw to a close.

It could be the final game in a City shirt for a number of players – but who knows with the managerial change?

Edin Dzeko looked a certainty to move on this summer, with Dortmund in the frame. Speculation abounds if Carlos Tevez will ship out to Monaco with just a year left on his deal. Similarly Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry will be entering the final year of their respective contracts next season.

Samir Nasri was odds on to ship out to PSG or Monaco but a late season surge of form could yet salvage his career at the Etihad – so much rests on the shoulders of Messrs Pellegrini and Begiristain.

Sergio Aguero’s future could also be in the melting pot with Real Madrid seeking to exploit domestic challenges in the adored Argentine’s family life.

At the other end of the equation are rumours of possible in-bound City recruits. Falcao, Cavani, Isco, Reus, Navas, Fernandinho, Coentrao– it’s a mouthwatering array of  A-list players who would enhance City no end, placing the onus on the Trafford Troglodytes to keep the PL trophy nice and shiny in readiness for its return.

For now, let’s content ourselves with stuffing the Norfolk fowl, going through the 80+ point mark and having an enjoyable Sunday afternoon jaunt in the sun.


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