For the second successive year Manchester City have exited the Champions League at the group stage and once again the knives are out for boss Roberto Mancini, with a number of top bookies slashing their odds on him to be the next manager sacked after the draw with Real Madrid.
Funnily enough, there is little derision from City supporters and there was a very audible rendition of the Mancini chant echoing around the Etihad Stadium with around ten minutes remaining in the game.
While all around them are buying into the hyperbole of sacking Mancini and bringing in someone like Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho, the blue half of Manchester remains quite happy overall with how things progressing.
The Champions League is a tough nut to crack at the best of times, and City have been given two very unfavourable draws with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax this year following on from Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal last time out.
Of course that is the problem with being seeded so low, but even as a team in the third pot of the draw it’s tough going.
After two poor results against Ajax home and away, Wednesday night’s performance against Madrid was decent for about an hour once Mancini abandoned 3-5-2 and switched to a back four.
His decision to go with the much derided system from the outset didn’t look too crazy on paper, with Maicon and Zabaleta doubling up on Cristiano Ronaldo on the right, Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic looking after lone striker Karim Benzema, and the sides eventually matched three on three in the middle of the park.
However, less than ten minutes in, another defensive lapse gave Benzema acres of space at the back post to finish an in-swinging cross from Angel Di Maria.
Maybe Joe Hart should have claimed the ball, maybe Maicon should have been aware of who was behind him, or maybe the three centre backs shouldn’t have been holding hands around the penalty spot.
Whatever the cause, it left City with a mountain to climb and they were unable to get the win needed despite being given a helping hand by some dubious referring for the penalty awarded to Sergio Aguero and the second yellow card for Alvaro Arbeloa.
As much as I try to defend Mancini though, he regularly leaves you scratching your head and last night was no different with the decision to bring on James Milner for Aguero as the game headed for injury time.
Baffling to say the least.
One of the biggest concerns to come out of the game was another anonymous showing from Yaya Toure who looked well off the pace throughout, and summed up his night late on with a shot that flew high and wide of Iker Casillas’ goal.
With Chelsea to come on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, Manchester City cannot afford to have passengers in the team, especially with the “New manager / Benitez Effect” getting its first airing.
As we head towards a busy festive season, exiting the Champions League so early is again disappointing but it’s not the be all and end all, nor should it mean the end of Mancini’s tenure as City manager.
Don’t get me wrong, City have underperformed massively in the competition this season, and the players have acknowledged the fact, but having weighed up the pros and cons as things stand, I think it would be madness to pull the trigger.
If Guardiola isn’t available at the moment and Mourinho is still involved in two big competitions with Madrid, then who else could be brought in right now if Mancini were to go?
The Italian will be three years in the job next month and is currently the sixth longest serving manager in the Premier League behind Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes, Tony Pulis, Roberto Martinez and Brian McDermott (appointed as Reading caretaker manager the day before Mancini took over).
In that time Manchester City have won the Premier League and FA Cup, they are unbeaten at home since December 2010, and are currently the only undefeated professional side in England when it comes to the league…things aren’t that bad are they?