Last night amidst the red and redder league title parade through the city of Manchester, Sir Alex Ferguson spoke of the send-off he’d received the day before at his last home game: “Yesterday was a day I’ll never forget. I thank you for that.” Waking up this morning, Roberto Mancini’s first quip of the day over a cup of Italian roast might’ve resembled the former part of Fergie’s comment…but certainly not the latter.
The statement given by Manchester City certainly wasn’t veiled as it left no doubt that Mancini just wasn’t sharp enough to cut this season’s Mansour mustard. He’d “failed to achieve any of the club’s targets, with the exception of qualification for next season’s Champions League.” By that we might assume it was Mancini’s failure to plateau the club at world domination (a year to the day the blue moon torch paper was lit at the end of Aguero’s right boot) which has made too shoogly the peg for his trademark scarf to hang on a day longer at the Etihad.
There’s something very rub-salt-wound for Mancini, being ditched two matches short of the full season. Perhaps Ben Watson’s big ginger bonce accelerated it. In a way it’s a shame he did, as it would have been interesting to see the FA Cup paraded around Manc landmarks about the same time Fergie and his lads were doing their double decker town jolly with a much bigger prize on board.
That day a year ago they placed a placard over the hoardings at the Etihad which read Vedi, Vidi, Vici, its message elevating to a zenith Mancini’s place in the hearts and minds of the Man City faithful. He’d already made legend with the 6-1 drubbing of Man Utd the previous autumn. Summer last year, Mancini could do no wrong, yet.
Salivation and baited breath sogged the air post-Champions League group stage draw. Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax; and who wouldn’t salivate at that package? Unfortunately for Man City fans the lacklustre performance against Wigan on Saturday was an extension, as well as a heavy reminder of the way they fell to the Spanish, Germans and Dutch away, respectively. By the turn of the year Man City were trailing Man Utd by six points, and as the gap widened nobody’s gut was telling them a second sensational comeback was in the weather.
The cracks were apparently going on behind the closed doors too. The Abu Dhabi based owners still wanted to talk about the club’s target legacy, key to their plans of nicely railroading the opposition, from Reading to Real, and all that lay in between. Yet the press corps couldn’t drop the rumour mill that had Manuel Pellegrini’s name at its core. It was a mere six months in the hatching in the end.
In Mancini’s reign, Man City truly threw away the underdog cloak, going from the club that every neutral footie fan took pleasure in their (albeit few and far between) wins against Man Utd to the new Chelsea, i.e. the team everyone loved to hate. With their pumped in millions and supped up ‘new dynasty’ pretensions, they’d left behind that uncool, cool cult club who’d lost their way but could still produce diamonds like Georgi Kinkladze as fans talked of the days of Summerbee, Bell and Marsh like it wasn’t a rose-tinted, forlorn era in the in between.
Whether Mancini has been afforded the respect of seeing the front as opposed to the back door these last few days – with Pellegrini having been round the wings the whole time – is a matter of opinion. He’ll perhaps not have had the exit sign swung in his back the same way as befell Mark Hughes. The 6-1 victory and the first league title in 44 years while at the helm of the Citizens might just have avoided Mancini that embarrassment.