Who do we tend to distrust the most in life? Used car salesmen, estate agents, politicians…?
During times of economic hardship, pay freezes and bleak employment prospects you would expect the democratically elected members of Parliament (MPs) to lead by example – the powerbrokers of Westminster to let their actions rather than their words do the talking – so what do they do – they recommend awarding themselves an inflation busting 12% pay rise!
Thankfully Manchester City is in a unique position in 2013/14, one which permits the Abu Dhabi owners, a galaxy of international star players and the bedrock of the club – it’s outstandingly loyal supporters – to buck the trend where everyone else is suspicious of their MPs.
As Sheikh Mansour sets his sights on City’s second Premier League crown in three years, everybody associated with the sky blue side of Manchester can rest assured that they CAN trust their MP – the newly appointed manager, Manuel Pellegrini.
The 60-year old ex-Chilean international is blessed with the requisite experience, guile, tactical nouse, vision and passion for expansive attacking football, that will win the big prizes for MCFC and captivate the hearts and minds of true lovers of the ‘beautiful game’.
Affable, articulate with an almost professorial aura, Pellegrini is poised to lead City into the club’s most successful era ever, superseding the magnificent reign of Mercer & Allison and surpassing the delicious delights delivered courtesy of Roberto Mancini at Wembley in 2011, and the never-to-be-forgotten Agueroooo moment on that magically mesmerising afternoon on May 13, 2012.
As a staunch advocate of ‘Bobby Manc’ and a frequent writer of the phrase ‘Forza Mancini’ I, like a majority of City fans was perturbed and unhappy to see City’s Italian leader dumped in such ignominious circumstances after the FA Cup Final debacle against Wigan.
The fact his sacking became official a year to the day after he had delivered the Premier League title and seen City crowned as Champions of England for the first time in 44 years made it all the more painful.
The timing of the announcement was manna from heaven for the anti-City biased national media, already busy lapping up City’s shock 1-0 Cup Final defeat and revelling in what they saw as Manchester United’s rightful restoration to the top of the English game.
What has subsequently emerged is that Mancini had, to coin the football vernacular, ‘lost the dressing room’ with what appears to be a lamentable lack of man-management. Forever revered for his achievements by City’s fans it was, nonetheless, completely hopeless to believe he could continue to lead City onto bigger prizes and even better times. Roberto had rediscovered the glory days for City, but hadn’t a hope in hell of sustaining them.
Manuel Luis Pellegrini Ripamonti, statesman-like, distinguished in appearance and diplomatic in his manner, was always the hot favourite to swap Malaga for Manchester and had been for months beforehand.
When Pep Guardiola opted to end his sabbatical and pledge his future to Bayern Munich, Pellegrini was the only viable candidate who ticked all the boxes in the eyes of City’s ex-Barcelona executives, CEO Ferran Soriano and Sporting Director, Txiki Begiristain.
Mourinho was never on the radar, much less the Glaswegian Gargoyle Moyes, who subsequently accepted Mission Impossible, following Fergie after Sir Baconface called time on his 26-years at The Swamp.
Ironic then that the media were quick to malign Pellegrini for not winning trophies during his time in La Liga with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga, and yet lauded Moyes, who of course was a winner – courtesy of the 1999 Second Division title with Preston North End.
Laughable but typical, and as a lifelong City fan I know who I would want leading my team and it definitely isn’t the man from Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire!
No, the ex-centre back from Santiago is my choice. His Malaga team was literally seconds away from last season’s Champions League semi finals before the outstanding Borussia Dortmund scored a blatantly offside ‘goal’ to snatch a controversial win.
In five years at Villarreal – the country cousins of Valencia and with no real history of success – Pellegrini transformed the ‘Yellow Submarine’ – guess what colour kit they wore, into one of La Liga’s leading lights. He broke the monopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table taking runners-up spot in 2008.
He took Villarreal to the semi finals of the CL in 2006 and, when given the poison chalice of the manager’s job at Real Madrid, amassed the club’s biggest ever points haul of 96 – just three behind the all conquering Barcelona at the peak of their powers.
He was subsequently sacked from the Santiago Bernabeu, before going onto prosper with Malaga. Lest we forget he had already chalked up a myriad of successes in his native South America winning a trio of league titles, one in Ecuador and two in Argentina with San Lorenzo and River Plate, along with numerous domestic cup successes and the Copa Mercosur – the equivalent of the Europa League.
Clearly, Pellegrini’s record in the CL far outshines that of Mancini’s and he can lay claim to being the only manager to take two different teams to the quarter finals in their debut seasons in the competition.
City have invested approaching £90m on Pellegrini sanctioned targets. Negredo, Navas, Jovetic and Fernandinho haven’t come cheap but,they nonetheless look shrewd acquisitions and Pellegrini’s summer shopping will probably carry on before the September 2nd transfer deadline.
Real Madrid’s notorious, but effective central defender Pepe still seems a target. Pellegrini had the combative Portuguese under his wing at the Bernabeu and has seen enough of him in La Liga to rate him. Whether City need reinforcements at left back revolve around Aleksander Kolarov’s situation, with Juventus bidding for his services.
Denis Suarez, Scott Sinclair and Gareth Barry seem the most likely departures following on from Carlos Tevez, Maicon, Kolo Toure and Jeremy Helan. As for Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz they were more like non-returners rather than departures – at long last!
City have had an eventful pre-season, travelling the world like never before. South Africa, Hong Kong, Germany and the unlikely final stop in Helsinki finished the friendly season which, by and large, went very well.
Marketing, fitness levels and tactical understanding – not necessarily in that order – are major components in the preparation as we head towards the opening fixture against Newcastle at the Etihad on August 19th.
Results are far from everything, the irony being the 2-1 defeat against reigning European Champions Bayern Munich in the Audi Cup, representing City’s most encouraging display – above winning the Barclays Asia Trophy in Hong Kong before beating AC Milan 5-3 via an amazing first half goal-fest in the Allianz Arena.
It’s well documented that Pellegrini is nicknamed ‘The Engineer’ because he studied engineering at the end of his playing career, but more tellingly, because of his ability to construct teams that strike a fine balance between defensive discipline and attacking flair.
And when it comes to the Manchester derby in September, Pellegrini has already put one over his new counterpart at Old Trafford. In their only encounter to date, Pellegrini’s Villarreal knocked Moyes’ Everton out of the 2005/06 Champions League 4-2 on aggregate in the preliminary round.