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Manchester MP set to retain seat

A surge of blue swept to power taking political pollsters by surprise in last week's General Election.

Nobody saw it coming and now, another incumbent MP with a sky blue hue, is set to confound the pundits by hanging onto his seat in his Manchester marginal constituency.

After months of speculation, berating from critics and trailing in the popularity stakes, it’s looking increasingly likely that Manuel Pellegrini will continue into a third year in ‘office’ or, more precisely, on the training ground at the City Football Academy and the ‘dug-out’ at the Etihad.

As a season that promised so much but delivered so little, draws to a conclusion, the chances of the dignified and affable Chilean remaining in charge at Manchester City rise almost daily.

Such a scenario looked highly unlikely after the 4-2 derby day mauling just over a month ago.

The knives – and bloody sharp ones at that – were out and primed to be thrust between Pellegrini’s shoulder blades. His departure was merely a matter of time.

Should MP be unseated immediately with Patrick Vieira taking over caretaker duties for the remaining six fixtures or, would Sheikh Mansour wait until May 25th and assess City’s final Premier League resting place?

Four games on, formation changes, maximum points garnered, 12 goals scored, only two conceded and the Runners-Up slot within City’s grasp, and Pellegrini’s limp hold on his job has tightened to a firm grip.

A surge of Aguero goals (8 in 5 games including the Old Trafford defeat) three Joe Hart clean sheets, a five point advantage over Manure, Arsenal lagging a win and a sizeable inferior goal difference behind (albeit with a game in hand) has given Pellegrini a fresh impetus.

The 6-0 annihilation of QPR was easy on the eye - albeit missing the orgasmic high of the Aguerrrooo Moment of 2012 - but a hat-trick from Sergio, supplemented by Kolarov, Milner and Silva, helped serve up a nine goal City advantage over Arsenal in the scrap for second place.

As welcome as City’s end of campaign renaissance has been, and will hopefully continue to be against Swansea and Southampton, Pellegrini’s fate owes more to the actions and shortcomings of others, rather than his own achievements.

Any manager who wins the Premier League and League Cup in his debut season, and then steers his side to second place in a season undermined by financial constraints, a lengthy injury list and an unfathomable loss of form by key players, probably deserves a third year in the job.

But Manchester City have shown themselves to be an organisation short on patience with any perceived failure.

Such is their insatiable desire to re-establish themselves as the best in England and finally make the breakthrough into Europe’s elite, any form of on-field regression is given very short shrift...just ask Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini.

But – and there is a big ‘but’ in Pellegrini’s case – there are mitigating factors:

  • Consistently sub-standard showings by major players

  • Poor dealings in the summer transfer window (Txiki’s domain?)

  • Financial Fair Play constraints – diminished transfer budget, reduced size of Champions League squad, a factor in Negredo’s departure

  • Injuries/prolonged absences – Aguero, Silva, Kompany, Nasri, Jovetic, Dzeko

  • African Cup Of Nations – Yaya and Bony missing half-a-dozen games

Pellegrini’s detractors – and there are many – would highlight tactical ineptitude, naivety, it what you will, especially in the Champions League where the rigid 4-4-2 set up often saw City surrender the midfield, and with it control of numerous games.

That said, are those who criticise Pellegrini equally given to highlighting any tactical shortcomings of Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti – two potential successors at the Etihad.

City’s pursuit – some might say obsession – with Guardiola, would see Pellegrini ceremoniously unseated if Pep gave the nod that he’d swap Munich for Manchester.

This is the man who was a living legend as Barcelona boss and the nemesis of Jose Mourinho, the same man who has seen his Bayern Munich comprehensively dismantled in Europe by Spanish opposition, two seasons running.

Domestically Munich have won two titles with Pep, but have just lost out to a beleaguered Borussia Dortmund in the semi final of the German Cup – in the Allianz Arena.

Ancelotti – a serial winner everywhere he’s been with AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG and Real Madrid – is facing up to a trophy-less season, even with the likes of Ronaldo, Bale, Isco, Rodriquez, Ramos and Varane at his disposal.

The grass may always seem greener elsewhere, but maybe Manchester City would do well to persevere with Pellegrini – especially when he’s given the opportunity to operate on a domestic level playing field with Mourinho, Wenger and Van Gaal.

Manuel and the club hierarchy want City to be renowned for an attractive, attacking, expansive brand of football but, without the right blend of players, substance has been sacrificed in pursuit of style.

It’s a dilemma for the City boss and one that can only be rectified by the recruitment of better players, players with the work ethic to accompany their undoubted technical skills.

The attitude of some of the seasoned professionals – double Premier League winners – has left much to be desired all season long. Only with a substantial exodus of the big name under achievers can City hope to regain the title.

Only via shrewd dealings in the transfer market, with the focus on a more youthful approach, can City energise themselves to surpass Chelsea, be more than a match for a resurgent Arsenal and, one supposes, a more confident and able Manure.

If Manuel does stay to see out the third and final year of his contract, who will be identifying and bringing in the new talent?

Juventus’ Paul Pogba and Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne are known to be top of City’s shopping list, a list that has to include ‘homegrown’ talent to comply with regulatory quotas.

Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling and Saido Berahino of WBA are strongly rumoured to be under consideration as part of what promises to be a very substantial summer spend, now the shackles of FFP have come off.

How ironic would it be if The Engineer gets a shot at Etihad ‘redemption’ but with players purchased with Pep Guardiola in mind for 2016/17?

By David Walker

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