Manchester City: The Mancini Enigma

There aren’t many club managers out there whose job would be under question with if, in their first full season, had won the club’s first major trophy in 35 years and then followed that up by winning the Premier League the following year. However, this is Roberto Mancini and Manchester City we’re talking about, where the expectation is just a little different.

When you chart Mancini’s managerial record, domestically, it is outstanding: winning Serie A 3 times in 4 seasons with Inter Milan and the Coppa Italia 4 times at Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter – but is less than impressive in European competition. Despite the domestic success with Inter, he failed to get them beyond the quarter finals of the Champions League.

Thus far at City, both their Champions League campaigns under him have ended at the group stages and despite being misfortunate in being consecutively drawn in extremely difficult groups, their huge investment in players means more is expected. This is not a squad of European novices; the likes of Tevez, Aguero, Nasri, Yaya Toure, Silva, Kompany, Clichy and others had plenty of experience playing European club football.

So, if you’ve failed in the Champions League, winning the Premier League title is not a bad saving grace by any stretch of the imagination.

Last season, City let slip a 6 point mid-season lead to Man Utd and looked down and out of the title race, 8 points behind Utd at Easter, only for Sergio Aguero’s dramatic injury time winner on the final day for City to pip their rivals on goal difference. This time round at the mid-way point, it’s Utd with the big lead and with £24m Robin van Persie continuing his Arsenal goalscoring form this year, another Lazarus impression from City would seem unlikely.

So, without a Premier League title to soften the blow of two consecutive early exits from the Champions League, this summer could be a test of the City owners’ loyalty to Mancini and arguably a gauge of their European ambitions, based on Mancini’s Champions League record.

What will make it particularly testing will be the availability of one Pep Guardiola. The former Barca boss has made it be known that he intends to return to management this summer and the Premier League be known to interest him. Chelsea are well publicised admirers of Guardiola, but will the Blues interest him, given the transitional stage the Chelsea squad is in and Roman Abramovich’s propensity to dispose of managers.

Would Guardiola want to risk his reputation by adding his name to the statistic of managers sacked by Abramovich? Despite the riches that would be on offer, City have similar, if not more, wealth and also have the added benefit of familiar faces behind the scenes at the Etihad in Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano.

There’s no doubting the Man City fans loyalty toward Mancini, understandably so, after making them English champions, but the conundrum for the clubs owners and fans alike is, if they really want to progress on to becoming European champions, this summer may be time to move on from Roberto Mancini.


Written by Andy Wales

Follow him on Twitter @AndyArmchair

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