Roberto Mancini has had a fantastic run at Manchester City, which isn’t surprising because Roberto Mancini is an accomplished manager. Four league titles in just under a decade of management at the top of European football will attest to that. But as of late, things have become fractious at the Etihad Stadium.
Last season was a Mancini masterpiece: As United became complacent at the top of the table, Mancini mercurially steered City back into title contention, all the while acting in post-match interviews as if someone had recently run over his dog.
He said the title race was over. Even after his side famously beat their cross-town rivals 1-0 at the Etihad to take the league lead on goal difference, Mancini maintained that with only two games to go in the season, United were favorites to retain the league title.
And they almost did retain that title, against all odds, until against even bigger odds, Sergio Aguero provided the blue half of Manchester and the football world the most memorable on-field moment in Premier League history, scoring the league-winning goal in last minute of the last game of the season.
Last year at this time, Mancini was just settling into his role of batting down expectations and hopes, covering for his team, playing down expectations and pressure so his team could make a run at the title unburdened. Mancini was sneaky. He made all the right calls with his personnel; he got his bad-boys – Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli – onside, and his tactical astuteness gave his team an advantage in every game down the stretch of the season.
This season, the other side of Mancini has revealed itself in full force. Mancini has gone from bickering with his players internally, to fighting with them in the press – telling one special Frenchman through the Sunday papers that his manager wants to punch him. The Italian boss has gone from just appearing he’s not enjoying himself, to actually not enjoying himself.
Now, City aren’t having a disastrous season. They have second place in the league locked down, and they already have champagne in their dressing room at Wembley ahead of the FA Cup Final against Wigan. This is a season City fans would have been ecstatic with even three years ago, but the fabric of the team is beginning to rip.
City have been far, far too disinterested and inconsistent in the league this season – not showing up for whole games, or not showing up for games at all. City shut off in the second half at White Hart Lane last weekend, they never turned on for their trip to St. Mary’s against Southampton earlier in the year.
City look perpetually distracted, and the lack of focus and buy-in is apparent with stupid mistakes and odd decisions that the team simply didn’t make last year. City just weren’t good enough in the Champions League, and deserved their last place finish in their group.
What’s gone wrong? For starters, it’s possible that Mancini has alienated just one too many players. There have been spats this year with Nasri and Tevez, sure, but more alarming were the rows with Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany.
Mancini hasn’t handled his displeasure well this year – unlike Sir Alex Ferguson, who strives endlessly to keep unrest in-house and places a premium on consistency.
Mancini’s summer transfer signings have been busts. Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia, and Maicon have all failed to keep places in the first-team, while the one good signing, Matija Nastasic, only got his chance because the manager fell out with Jolean Lescott.
If Manchester City do truly want to become a European power, they might need to get rid of Mancini, who has as dreadful a record continentally as he has a brilliant record domestically. The main reason Mancini was sacked from Inter Milan, where he won Serie A three times in four years, was his inability to gain traction in the Champions League.
Jose Mourinho came into Inter and won the Champions League two years after Mancini was sacked with what largely the same team. City have the talent, and they’ve certainly spent the money to compete in Europe, but two consecutive failures in the group stage make the pattern of Mancini’s European struggles clear.
Does Roberto Mancini deserve to be sacked? Of course not. His accomplishments at City have been famous and incredible. But both parties, Mancini and the City brass should know when to call time on what has been a fruitful and good relationship.
Mancini should quit while he’s ahead. The 2012-2013 season has been the Italian’s most trying year at City, and it appears he’s growing very frustrated indeed. Mancini lashed out over the club’s trip to America to play two friendlies against Chelsea just days after the end of the season speaks to a deeper anger with the egos at the club.
City have huge personalities in their team, and Mancini tried to match fire with fire this year. It hasn’t worked. A cooler head, a calmer, more even-keeled manager could do wonders to calm the water at the Etihad, and get City performing up to their true potential – something that they have a lot of, as we’ve seen at times this year.
Matching fire with ice will be the next City manager’s job in Mancini goes, and Carlo Ancelotti is the perfect man to rise to that challenge. As serene as he is suave, Ancelotti has a wonderful pedigree in the Champions League, has dealt with the biggest egos in the game, and through it all has won with grace.
Ancelotti’s position at Paris St. Germain is fluid to say the least, and the manager has stated he wants to return to England, where he enjoyed his time at Chelsea. He’d be the perfect fit at Manchester City.
If he leaves now, Roberto Mancini will exit the Etihad a hero, with clubs – most notably his former employers Inter Milan, cueing up to give him his next job. If Mancini leaves now, he can avoid a volatile divorce with City that wouldn’t be fun for either party.
Things have worked out better for Mancini at City than he could have ever expected when he took over for Mark Hughes in 2009. Save for a period of stability near the turn of the 20th century when Joe Royle and Kevin Keegan were in charge, Mancini is the longest-tenured City manager since Tony Book, who managed the club in the late 1970’s.
Mancini stepping away now, and Ancelotti stepping in would the best possible move for all parties concerned. Roberto Mancini’s reign at Manchester City has been a movie-reel of landmarks and monumental achievements. Let it end on a high note.