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Mancini: The End

May 14, 2013

No one else could do it this way. No one. No other team would dominate headlines on the eve of the biggest domestic cup final in world football due to reports that their manager was about to be sacked. Ah, Manchester City, it’s good to have you back, just how I remember you. You been well?

One disastrous game and a weekend of recriminations later, and he was gone. Many commentators without a sentimental attachment to City will not see Mancini’s impending dismissal as harsh. Supporters of other clubs have often derided his ability as a manager, though they were probably clouded by the foolish notion that with money at his disposal, a manager should win everything. Now the few in the press pack that have pursued Mancini all this time and doubted his ability can perform their traditional U-turns and talk of City’s lack of class, how hard done by Mancini is and thus transform him into one of football’s greatest martyrs. After all, as many have already commented, City are no better than Chelsea because they got rid of the country’s 9th-longest serving manager.

But Mancini has not been sacked for finishing second in the Premier League. I’m not even sure he has been sacked for failing in Europe. If he had been sacked on results alone, I’d agree it was a disgrace, and City’s official statement mentions his failure to meet the goals set out for him. But he hasn’t left just because of results, and wailing that he has on Twitter, Facebook and message boards doesn’t change that. There are mitigating circumstances, but the constant chatter is of a breakdown in relationships repeatedly, not only with internal staff, not only with those in the dressing room (you lose the players and you are always doomed), but also according to a friend of Mancini, his relationship with City’s owner has broken down irrevocably. And if that last point is true, makes everything else redundant. This is all speculation of course, with Stuart Brennan at the Manchester Evening News saying a lot more will come out that will show that his relationships at the club had broken down. He can’t stay if this is so, though Mancini supporters will wonder how much propaganda is being fed to the media to paint a picture that suits them. Yes, the club are feeding a particular angle to the nation’s journalists right now, but these stories have been around before, and there are too many of him. The sheikhs’ 5-year contract for Mancini last summer showed they were not out to get him from the start, but during a truly disappointing season, Mancini has burnt his bridges.

It seems that Mancini does not help himself. You wonder if he will ever spend more than a few years at any club. He is not a people-person, he manages as he played – with fire, arguments and conflict. This is his way, and that is that. There is no right way to manage a football team, but when the results don’t follow, his way starts to look flawed. He has publicly duelled with pretty much everyone at the club, and criticised players in the process, though this is a method that can bear fruit. Zabaleta and Lescott hardly rushed to his defence this weekend, whilst Joleon Lescott hardly masked his distrust of the man, but then it is not their job to fight his corner, and you can read too much into banal comments. Mancini does not manage by making friends.
And players can be precious souls of course. Managers can fall out with them and still succeed, it just depends which players (and how many) he falls out with. If the squad feels generally as one, then there can be no happy ending, and Mancini’s many power struggles have a Machiavellian ring to them.

And let’s be honest, the club has gone backwards this season. The list of truly poor performances outstrips the truly great ones. Key players appear to have gone backwards, and whilst Mancini did not get the players he wanted last summer, he still had a damn fine squad. No one season should kill off a manager at a club that once had a perpetual-motion revolving-door, but it hasn’t helped when the owners want a Barcelona Mk II. And let’s not get started on him not having a man upfront for opposition corners. His inability to suss out certain teams, his stubbornness, his failed 3-5-2 system (not flawed in itself, but a flop at City), his strange substitutions and his occasional inability to react during matches have all helped seal his fate. The reports that he never stepped foot in the academy could be the most damning story of all, but it’s all speculation.

But he has still been let down. There is a palpable sense that he has been hung out to dry. It feels like Mancini has been a dead man walking since the day he was appointed. Rumours of his demise have followed him around like a loyal dog since the start. Questions about Mancini’s future should have been banned from press conferences. No further discussion should have been allowed. This is the man that brought the club success, and is a legend to most fans. If he leaves, it feels all a bit tawdry that it is happening like this.
City’s PR department is widely lauded as one of the best in the country by journalists, though you wonder how much of that is due to City being so accommodating. Either way, it is clear that this PR department was nowhere to be found on the two days before the Cup Final when journalists were keen to know if there was any truth in the Pellegrini rumours. But having said that, I’m not sure what else City could have done about the rumours, which were little more than irregular betting patterns. If, as seems the case, the rumours are true, they couldn’t confirm it obviously. Nor could they lie and deny it. Perhaps a quick statement about a review at the end of the season and Mancini having their full support for the rest for the season may have helped? Whatever, the team was a disgrace at Wembley. Whatever is going on behind the scenes, no player should need encouragement to perform in an FA Cup final, especially against a depleted relegation-threatened opposition.
Still, hysterical wailing on Twitter for news and a campaign to get Vicky Kloss sacked makes us all look like idiots. Classy. After all, I’m sure Vicky decides City’s policy herself, and gets no guidance from above (#sarcasm). To think that Vicky is solely to blame for any PR gaffes is buffoonery of the highest order, unless you know something we mere mortals don’t. Criticise City’s PR all you want, but the perceived mistakes do not come from one person. And Mancini made spats public as part of his own agenda, so don’t blame City’s PR for not clearing up the mess every time.
As for making the announcement a year to the day after we won the title, I really couldn’t care less. Nothing will ever diminish that day. Fans were wailing for days for City to make a statement, and when they did, they bemoaned the timing. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Once the decision to remove Mancini had been made, and the news had leaked, his position was untenable. We all wanted to say goodbye next Sunday, but it wasn’t a realistic wish.

But as the owners move on, the Pellegrini rewriting of history has begun, before he has arrived. I didn’t want Mancini to be sacked, but I can still be excited at the possibilities of our new manager, a man who gets the most out of squads, who maximizes potential, a people-person who will fit into the ethos of the owners’ vision and embrace the new academy. Quoting a lack of trophies won (whilst ignoring the trophies won outside Europe) is a very simplistic viewpoint considering that the likes of Mancini or Ferguson could not have done more with Pellegrini’s Malaga and Villareal squads, and his single season at Real Madrid saw a 96-point haul and the sale of two key players against his wish. And if a single season of failure is an argument not to hire someone, presumably it’s enough to dismiss Mancini too.

The owners are not interested in sentiment. They didn’t go to Lincoln or Wycombe, or have 25 years of taunts from across the city (and beyond) rammed down their throats. They aren’t swayed by a lovely video of Mancini with an emotional soundtrack on vimeo, nor obsessed at ripping THAT banner down. They are interested in making City one of the greatest clubs in the world, and will act accordingly to reach that aim. They are looking at the widest of pictures, and are planning long-term. And if you don’t like it, well tough, because without them we wouldn’t have any silverware, we wouldn’t have our Aguerooooooo moment, and we’d be discussing on Bluemoon whether it was worth taking a punt on bringing Joey Barton back to the club whilst bemoaning finishing 8th in the Championship. Harsh I know, as we are all entitled to express our disquiet at anything that happens at the club we love, but the truth is harsh, and perhaps we can’t handle it. I wanted stability and perseverance at this club, but it seems that will have to wait, for now.

But the vast majority of City fans are deeply upset at Mancini leaving. They don’t care about internal rifts, PR (until now), or how much money we spend. All they know is that the last three years have been the best of our football-supporting lives. Roberto Mancini was the man who brought us our first trophy in 35 years. He was the man that brought us our first league title in 44 years. He brought us one of the greatest moments of our lives. He masterminded a 6-1 win at Old Trafford, and a Wembley win over United. He challenged Ferguson, he argued with him on the touchline, he brought success, and he punched the air in delight with the rest of us at the madness of it all. He had style, panache and a winning smile. He was, as Sam Wallace commented, a perfectionist at an imperfect club. All those memories he gave us will never be forgotten, in a wonderful period in this club’s long history.
And I swear, we’ll never see anything like it again.


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  1. nick g permalink

    Great piece Howard.
    He gave us all those great things, and for me personally is possibly my greatest City hero of all (I am 40!).

    I wished for stability, for long term strategy and planning, for patience and sense, and I thought that Mancini could give us all those things, as well as the magic moments on the pitch.
    He is a perfectionist, but not perfect. Who is? He is divisive and no doubt “challenging” to work with/for.

    I am torn at the moment between recognising that perhaps he is not the ideal person to take City forward, and wishing that maybe the club had worked harder to get it all back on track with him, hoping that together it would all work out.
    He is at an age where he could realistically have been around at City for many years, and been part of all the long term planning, but I guess he blew it.

    He certainly had charisma and talent, and he certainly transformed the team during his reign. Those magic months in the first half of last season will never be forgotten. I will always wonder just why and how we seemed to revert back to more cautious mode around December 2011, and never really regained that flowing form other than in the odd one off performance.

    But its all history now. The king is dead, long live the king……

  2. Graham Ward permalink

    Thank you for a thoughtful and articulate piece on the finest and most successful manager of City’s modern history.
    A manager with flaws (who hasn’t?), but what glorious memories, as you correctly point out.
    Grazie, Don Roberto, and ciao.

  3. My thoughts (not in any order of importance)
    There has been much gnashing of teeth that the consequences of the last few days will set us back years and “the project” was in disarray. It it certainly likely that in the short term things will become rather rocky however the removal of Mancini must be viewed as in line with the project. As you say the aim is to have an operation similar to Barcelona’s – Holistic is the word used.
    As much as we may have liked RM he clearly was more interested in getting his way rather than agreeing to work as part of the larger team. His well publicised fight with Marwood always made me uncomfortable, it certainly gave the press a stick to repeatedly beat him and the club with. His attack on Vicky Kloss was outrageous and should have been enough to get at least a major bollocking by the board, but by this stage he was already gone.
    The club is being accused of a knee jerk reaction by the twiterrati yet this sacking comes after the owners spent a considerable length of time getting the right people in the right places at the top. They also set goals for the management at the start of the season. Having put Soriano and Begiristain in place and told them what structure was required they have spent all season performing a root and branch review (as well as overseeing 2 major projects – the development of the training ground and the MLS team) the end of the season arrives the board holds its meeting (the reason to hold it on cup final day will no doubt come out in time) the reports are in and RM has not met his goals – no board member feels able to support RM.
    And here comes the crux of the matter, the problems with RM are highlighted because he doesn’t fit into the structure the owners and board have for the club. He was holding the position of a traditional British manager. This is not what the owners, board and god knows how many of advisors have agreed on. While the club was going forward this was acceptable but not after this season especially as RM’s attitude was getting more and more confrontational within the club.
    Further down the food chain things are even worse, Despite bringing in some exceedingly talented kids the performances of the EDS and youth teams this year have been embarrassing, that clearout is unsurprising.
    The aim of the club appears to be very sensible set up a regime from top to bottom that does not have to be require major employee changes whenever any one employee leaves. Everyone will get goals set and year end reviews (just like in the real world) and if they underperform out they go. This way the club gets the continuity that is needed. A byproduct of this is we are unlikely to keep “managers” or head coaches for long periods.
    The press are making great play of comparing RM getting sacked to SAF retiring. I understand precisely why utd have appointed DM he is the closest thing to SAF there is out there. They have however not addressed the issue that City just have. They remain totally dominated by SAF and his structure, sooner or later they will have to change course and restructure the club from top to bottom. I am sure their owners hope they will not have to undertake this and can execute their exit strategy plans before it is needed.
    I always thought this summer was going to be exciting but with so many managerial changes and potential player moves it is going to be a humdinger.

  4. paulscribbles permalink

    Fantastic bit of writing. Nice one Blue.

  5. Spot on Howard, the King is dead long live the King. btw did you see that reprehensible article by Martin Samuel about Pellegrini FFS, he’s not even taken the job yet and he’s the wrong choice!

  6. A perfectly pitched article howie, expressing the views of the majority of sensible blues I’m sure.
    john broadhead – first time I’ve seen that written down re. united ignoring the necessary changes required to their structure now SAF has gone; I thought the same, and much as we (the royal ‘we’) scoff at the behaviour of roman abramovich, there is a method in his madness assuming their restructuring was done years ago – you can’t have billion-pound businesses being run by one man whose main qualification is kicking a ball around.

  7. Nick Firth permalink

    Outstanding piece. Summarized everything perfectly.

  8. How can you sack a man with the fourth best winning record in PL history? How can you employ a PR department that does not do its job? Does the first team manager have to do the Academy’s job for them? Mancani was an honest man at Press conferences and a media delight. He gave the vicious media all they needed to sack him. Sky sports has been a disgrace with its coverage of Mancini,followed by the BBC Match of the day team the likes of Rednapp, Lawrenson,rting the bestShearer, Stelling and his cronies should hold their heads in shame. This ideal of having people in place from top to bottom in an organisation is utopia and i suspect not possible. Mancini has given City supporters the best times of their supporting lives and i for one no that Pelligrini will not emulate what Roberto has done in 31/2 years at the club. Shame on all aspects of the media for getting rid of him and shame on the club for not supporting the best Manager we have had since Mercer.

  9. Robert Fish permalink

    Outstanding article, spot on.

  10. Best article I have read on the situation. I appreciate the wonderful moments under mancini’s reign but the moments have now dried up, the Cup Final being the last straw. If he has lost the dressing room then he has to go. On the subject of Pellegrini any one who follows Spanish football and I am one, will tell you that Pellegrini is very special indeed. A gentleman who the fans will come to love for his attacking style, the players will adore him, the press will hate him and the owners will be ecstatic about when he brings home the bacon.

  11. pete permalink

    Fantastic article and very true

  12. Craig permalink

    I’ve read a lot of stuff over the last week. Not a single blog/piece by a Blue has been bad but this is by far the best I’ve read. The amount of perspective you’ve included makes it so well balanced. Fair play to you.

  13. Great read mate honest and fair like u I wanted Mancini to stay but in our owners w MUST TRUST. Hopefully no silly protests Sunday !!!

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