Even by their own crazy historical standards, the last 48 hours have been eventful for Manchester City Football Club…for all the wrong reasons.
The sacking of Roberto Mancini – a year to the day of him guiding City to their finest hour and the stunning ‘Agueroooo’ title winning triumph – is seemingly outrageous in the extreme…until you take a closer look.
Prima facie it beggars belief that the Italian has been dismissed after delivering FA Cup and Premier League success, following decades of chronic mismanagement and under-achievement at City.
Just 12 months after being handed a five-year deal and a mandate to build a Mancini-Mancunian dynasty, the darling of the Sky Blue supporters has suffered an ignominious end to what had seemed destined to be the most successful managerial reign in the club’s history.
His dismissal has sparked a furore among City fans with a social media backlash aimed at the Abu Dhabi owners, not just for the sacking of the manager – but more so, for the manner and timing of Mancini’s exit.
For whatever reason – and it was obviously not intentional – City have not emerged favourably from events in the run up to last night’s sacking. That said, the Club was not entirely free to make announcements whilst discussing severance details with Mancini.
Feelings of unease and something being ‘amiss’ were palpable at Wembley before the shock FA Cup Final defeat to Wigan. It’s increasingly apparent that Mancini was told he was to be sacked at the end of the season BEFORE the Cup Final. Subsequently, it’s more than likely that the players knew Mancini was a goner before kick-off.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the wave of negativity that engulfed the Club in the hours immediately prior to kick-off, then proceeded to smother the team on the field, resulting in an abject showing.
Understandably there is a huge outpouring of sympathy and no small degree of sentimentality being accorded Mancini.
City owner Sheikh Mansour and Chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak are – wrongly – being tarred with the same brush of previous City regimes, ones that were riddled with incompetence.
Mancini’s post-match outburst at Wembley, when he unfairly criticised City’s Chief Communications Officer Vicky Kloss and her PR team of failing to kill off speculation on his future, also needs to be put into context.
City can hardly go on record denying they are to dispense with Mancini’s services, knowing full well that they are going to do just that. Likewise, they weren’t in a position – at that time – to confirm their intention to part company with him while concluding negotiations for his departure.
As a fan and as Read But Never Red author, I have been an advocate and supporter of Mancini. However, there are two sides to every story and Mancini has not helped his cause with a somewhat combative, aggressive and, arguably, self-serving, stance.
It’ll hardly come as a surprise if Mancini is installed as Monaco’s new manager in the next few days or weeks. There is even a school of thought suggesting he intended leaving City to move to the riches of the Principality, and closer to his father - presently in poor health - in Italy.
Perhaps it should not be forgotten that fresh from winning the PL last summer, prior to signing his new five-year deal, Mancini was exploring all options and was talking with Monaco.
The ‘problems’ that have enveloped Mancini this season began when – as he sees it – City failed to back him in the summer transfer window. He landed neither Van Persie or De Rossi.
City's Champions League campaign was pretty disastrous. Winless and without even claiming third place in the Group, and with it the poisoned chalice of a Europa League berth, it didn’t reflect favourably on Bobby Manc. A second early exit did not sit well in Abu Dhabi.
The public condemnation of his players – individuals such as Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott – during the doomed CL matches, rankled within the dressing room and the boardroom.
While his passion and determination to succeed were not in doubt, his outbursts were viewed as divisive and he was asked to refrain from effectively doing ‘dirty dressing room laundry’ in public.
He seemingly assumed a more autocratic air and ostracized more and more people – players included – along the way.
It appears he is at odds with City’s new powerbrokers, Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, who are putting a Barcelona-esque blueprint in place to provide foundations for future success.
The much vaunted Etihad Campus and the focus on Academy football is a fundamental building block for City’s future prosperity and sustainability.
The widespread adoption of a broad 4-3-3 football philosophy, from the most junior Man City Representative XI, all the way through to Vincent Kompany & Co, is not one that apparently meets with Mancini’s blessing.
When City's statement confirming Mancini's sacking, speaks of the desire to have a manager who buys into the ‘holistic’ approach of the Club, it could mean overseeing the nurturing of young talent and bringing it through the ranks and into the first team.
In Manuel Pellegrini it would appear that City’s Soriano and Begiristain have identified a man who ticks all the boxes, especially player development.
The Malaga boss is widely credited with bringing Spanish midfield protégé, Isco, to the fore – it may well be that both manager and player alike will soon be championing the cause of the blue side of Manchester.
At Villarreal, Pellegrini made a real impact in La Liga, splitting Real Madrid and Barcelona at the top of the table, bringing home grown talent through the ranks – even getting the tiny provincial side through to the semi final of the Champion’s League.
Pellegrini’s teams play attractive, progressive football and his Malaga side came within 120 seconds of sending the brilliant Borussia Dortmund out of this season’s Champion’s League quarter finals.
The 59-year old Chilean has already signalled his intention to depart Malaga this summer - at the conclusion of a three year contract - signed after Real Madrid sacked him in 2010.
Like so many before him, Pellegrini’s stay in the Spanish capital was short-lived, but in that time he ran Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona – at the peak of their powers – a close second, amassing a then record 96-point haul for Madrid, just three behind the Catalan champions.
He is an excellent English speaker, tactically astute, credited with excellent man-management skills and very well regarded in Spanish football. He is a man who has won titles and cups throughout South America and has - unlike Mancini - taken teams into the serious end of Champions League campaigns.
In short Manchester City would be bringing in an experienced and highly accomplished manager if Pellegrini succeeds Mancini.
I lament Mancini’s departure because it means he and City did not hit the heights of which both were thought capable. I would welcome Pellegrini’s arrival on the premise he will lead City to hitherto unchartered success, both at home and in Europe.
By David Walker