To outsiders, it may appear that those who support Manchester City have overreacted in the past few days. If you feel that way, you simply don’t understand the culture that surrounds supporting Manchester City.
You can debate the merits of the Roberto Mancini sacking all day long. His record as a manager speaks for itself. However, his man management skills and unwillingness to be accountable in the media for missteps ultimately cost him his job. But whether or not Mancini deserved to be sacked is not the issue, though most City supporters would easily gloss over the poor man management considering his record.
To sack the manager a year to the day after the club’s greatest triumph and to allow rumors regarding Mancini’s position to undermine a FA Cup final is something that could irrevocably damage the relationship between passionate supporters and the club hierarchy. Understand, we are not front-runners but sentimentalists. We love the likes of Paul Dickov, Shaun Goater and Kevin Horlock because of the commitment they always showed for the club. The greats like Paul Power, Colin Bell and Mike Summerbee of course are important to our history but so are those gritty, spirited players who embodied the working class traditions of our supporters.
Mancini embraced City’s culture and heritage including his dawning of a club scarf regularly. The supporters in turn embraced him and were rewarded with three trophies in three years (yes we count the Community Shield), five trips to Wembley, and close misses in other cup competitions. This season, despite a media narrative created by some elites in London that City have a stronger and deeper squad than anyone in England, truly objective journalists understand Mancini was hamstrung.
A simple look at the bench Mancini had at his disposal much of the season when compared to Manchester United, Chelsea or even arguably Tottenham would indicate that while City have spent several hundred million pounds, the return on investment has been poor. It was not Mancini who overspent for several subpar players but in fact the football hierarchy at the club. Given that the club was not meeting expectations, Mancini was given zero opportunity to upgrade the squad in January, either to add depth or to chase the title. The fact that the manager has City second in the table despite lacking the flexibility in squad selection other teams around us in the table enjoy should have saved him his job.
City’s most decorated manager Joe Mercer was ultimately undercut by his brilliant yet conniving number two Malcolm Allison. Mercer had won the league; both domestic cups and a European trophy between 1968 and 1970 but by 1971 Allison had aligned with Peter Swales to oust Mercer and the existing board from the club. Swales would prove to be a disastrous chairman for City and the decline brought on by Swales takeover was only arrested by David Bernstein in the early 2000s. Sadly, Mercer’s accomplishments have become Allison’s accomplishments to many of our supporters, but given Mancini will not be replaced by someone within the club but someone from outside, means the reaction to his sacking will be much stronger than Mercer’s was.
Fans of more successful clubs can mock us, but for most Manchester City supporters, myself included, European success is not something we crave and European failure is not something we are bothered by. Participating in the Champions League we understand is lucrative for ownership but for us it is merely this quaint competition where our club can face off in an actual match against the likes of Bayern Munich or Real Madrid. Sacking a manager based on lack of European success may make sense for bigger clubs and may realistically be wise for the stated ambition of City’s ownership but it does not reconcile well with how the majority of supporters view the club.
We are not Real Madrid or Chelsea. We are a club that aspires to be great but not without honoring our history and family feel. This is a reality our owners need to remember in the future if they want to keep supporters feeling as strongly about the hierarchy of our club as we want to.