Monday, 13 May 2013

Farewell, man of good fortune

And so Roberto Mancini has been sacked as the manager of Manchester City.

He was labelled a man of “good fortune” by his contemporaries in Italy, because both as a player and manager he won trophies almost everywhere he went. He continued that tradition at City, thereby cementing his place in the history of the club forever.

The fans will probably not get a chance to thank him collectively for all that he was done for the Blue side of Manchester, and it is a shame that it had to end like this, with defeat in the FA Cup Final, followed by his sniping against the club’s staff for not doing more to quell rumours that he was about to lose his job. Mancini is someone who hates losing, so his departure was probably always going to be acrimonious. 

The debate will rage on over whether his sacking was right and over whether City are turning into Chelsea. I'm shocked, but then again I'm not, such is the nature of football, and such is the history of this club.

On the pitch this season, we have not been good enough and Mancini must carry the can for that. He tried to introduce a new tactical system – it didn’t work. He had a second chance at the Champions League – but we failed to get out of the group again. The defence of the title has been a non-defence – that’s unacceptable. Then there was the sense that the camp was never a happy one. This is where the waters get murky and we can only know so much. Calling out his players in public has probably been a mistake. 

Then again, look at the mitigating factors. We have had unlucky draws in the Champions League. Mancini didn't get any of his primary summer transfer targets. In terms of man management, you look at the way Mancini took the pressure off the players at the end of last season, beating Ferguson at his own mind games, then you look at his management of the Carlos Tevez affair – reintegrating a player from an outcast to a key member of the title winning team in weeks, and you realise the charge that Mancini could not man manage is not completely true. In fact, in some cases, he was an excellent man manager.

And so once again, we find ourselves turning to the issue of time, consistency and stability. Consistency on its own doesn’t bring success, you need to marry it with talent and the right character. Mancini appeared authoritarian, with a ruthless streak, not suffering fools gladly, very similar to Ferguson. An ideal combination, one might think. But his weakness has come at the wrong time. If we’d secured another league title, or if we’d reached the latter knockout rounds of the Champions League, combined with winning the FA Cup, it would have bought him more time so that when he did have a bad patch later on, he would have had a better chance of surviving it. The fact remains that we have a very strong squad and we’ve achieved nothing this season. 

The question is whether or not Mancini could have turned it around next season. Of course, that's always the question in these situations. I would have given him another season, but I don’t know the full picture behind the scenes. Maybe he upset too many people in the end.

That said, what a tenure Mancini’s has been. He probably did what Mark Hughes could never have done, delivering three trophies in four years. Hughes’ sacking was hard to take at the time but Mancini has vindicated the owners’ judgement. Hopefully they will choose well again.

Winning the FA Cup in 2011 to end the 35-year hoo-doo. Ripping down that banner at Old Trafford. Demolishing teams last season, Spurs 5-1 away, United 6-1 away. It was pure poetry. Nobody could touch us. We were the best team in the league by a country mile and we almost threw it all away, but we didn’t, and in the end, that’s what counts. 

Then, when all hope was lost, snatching the Premier League title from United at the very last second, doing to them what they had done to so many other teams for so many years and seeing the despair and uncertainty creep onto their faces for a change – Bobby Manc, let me say this to you – through all those years of winning nothing, through all the pain of getting relegated to the old Division 3, through all the suffering of getting beat by the likes of Lincoln City, Wycombe Wanderers and York City – that moment made it all worth it, and I – as I’m sure will many other City fans - will be forever grateful to you for that.

Thank you Roberto Mancini. To me, you will always be up there with the best. You made me believe in Manchester City.


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