It’s been a long time coming, but with a spot in the FA Cup final assured and a Champions League berth beckoning Robert Mancini must now believe his job is safe at Manchester City.
You’re about to read something you don’t read very often – a positive prediction from a Manchester City fan. Naysayers, doomandgloomers and lucky pants wearing supersticians look away now. City are going to win the FA Cup. Then we’re going to qualify for the Champions League. And next season will see the two Manchester teams finish first and second in the Premiership. City first, Bolton second. [Insert drum roll here.]
The reason my outlook is as sunny as this recent Easter weekend is because the gaffer, Roberto Mancini, has this season steered his ship through the choppiest of waters, only to come out on the other side with the wind firmly behind his sails and his lovely hair bouncing in the breeze. “I’m King Of The World!” he proclaims from the bow, with Brian Kidd holding him in place. Steady on, Roberto.
City's hard fought victory over Blackburn Rovers was typical of a great Mancini performance. His tactics produced long patches of irresistible, drool inducing football by granting David Silva freedom of the pitch, Adam Johnson freedom to attack down the wings and Yaya Touré freedom to attack down the middle like a rampaging beast. When things weren’t quite going City’s way, the plain frightening yet uber cool Nigel De Jong and emerging herculean duo of Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott slid, snapped and hacked Manchester City’s way clear. And the winning goal came courtesy of substitute Edin Dzeko’s first of the season – he’d only just come on the pitch! Genius, eh?
Champions League qualification, and possibly a trophy as well, was the mission set out to the Mancini management team by Sheik Mansour at the start of the season. Now that he is tantalisingly close to making history, one can only imagine that a contract extension is being drawn up in heavy, diamond encrusted pencil. All of the work on and off the pitch since the controversial ADUG buyout is at last coming to fruition, and Mansour et al will be keen to make this a lasting legacy, rather than a passing one.
“I’m King Of The World!” he proclaims from the bow, with Brian Kidd holding him in place.
But as Mancini so wisely comments on a regular basis, if you win, everybody thinks you are great. If you lose, everybody thinks you’re crap. This has certainly been endemic of 2011, which until recently hasn’t been at all brilliant for Mancini’s City. With underperforming strikers, a glut of injuries and at times a shockingly poor team spirit, the only consistency has been a lack of consistency. The embarrassing performance at Anfield certainly put Mancini’s tactical nous in the spotlight. He and Brian Kidd seemed to have no answer to King Kenny’s revived Liverpool, and they resembled a particularly clueless Steptoe and Son. But the massively important “I was there” inspiring defeat of Man United at Wembley followed by last night’s away win (the first in 2011) has proven that Mancini has what it takes to come back from a major disappointment. If it’s longevity that the City board is after, they will recognise that this is the quality which all top managers possess. Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger are all examples of managers who have used bad patches to great positive effect. Mancini may be on the verge of just this.
At the final whistle last night, Mancio had a huge smile on his face, and boy did he deserve it. His players now seem totally committed to the cause and prepared to run through trees for him. Now 4 points clear with 5 games to play, and a much easier run in than closest rivals Spurs, the promised land of the Champions League is on the horizon. Only City can screw this up now.
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