Welcome to our first post. In our our maiden edition we look back at Roberto Mancini’s tenure, or rather his downfall as the Manchester City manager whilst incoming manager Manuel Pellegrini has his new training wear measured, match day suit tailored. With the announcement of our New York sister club a few weeks ago what does this mean for City, New York and the MLS. Happy reading.
A week’s a long time in football, how about a month. ‘The Engineer’ has now been installed as City’s new manager, with Manuel Pellegrini yesterday being confirmed after penning a three year deal with City. The door frame has just about stopped shaking as Roberto Mancini slammed it shut. Despite new signings Jesus Navas and Fernandhino joining City’s ranks, it’s perhaps too early to say what style of football the Chilean will have us playing next season, not at least until we have some new blood up front. Heaven forbid Roque Santa Cruz should turn up for pre-season.
With the dust settled on Mancini’s departure following consternation, frustration, embarrassment that comes naturally with such a nose dive campaign from the unprecedented heights of the season before; sadness lingers in the air. And why not? Roberto Mancini joined Manchester City around three and a half years ago and elevated City not just to contenders, but winners.
Under the Italian, City claimed the FA Cup in 2011, closing a trophy-less abyss that had haunted them for 35 years. Then followed the clubs first Championship for 44 years. The noise the neighbours were making were deafening cheers of celebration now.
I for one have reviewed my position and opinion of Mancini on many occassion. We missed out on Europe as he closed out Mark Hughes’ season in what was essentially a Champions League qualifying game against Spurs. Harry Redknapp touted Craig Bellamy, a resolute ‘winner’ by nature on our own touchline, and something didn’t feel, well, right.
When the money rolled it, most fans picked their camp, mindset, call it what you like. Mine, along with many I speak with was if someone wants to pump money in to our club, then what’s the harm? Sheik Mansour wants to be the top of the game, in every game he plays. Oil, airlines and football clubs no exception. If someone wants to pump money in to Blackberry to topple Apple, why shouldn’t they be allowed to? Today, as it stands, Manchester City have spent less money since the Premier League inception than the competitions most successful side, Manchester United. There’s no denying we’ll eventually be winning that race, but by today’s accounts we’ve just spent it faster.
Roberto Mancini has been the one spending vast amounts of that cash, bringing in Aleksander Kolorov, Stefan Savic, Edin Dzeko and Samir Nasri. Combine that with a cut price deal on Jerome Boateng the transfer record is poor at best, and there’s been plenty enough money to assemble a team to win the title in two years, in what is a Premier League perhaps at its weakest (when you consider the strength of the United side that have reclaimed it, and the European pedigree our clubs has shown in recent competitions, a fortunate Chelsea being an exception).
On the contrary, Mancini backed Joe Hart on to having a superhuman campaign as City won the league, but his age and ultimate lack of experience has cost him in the last 12 months. Although Mancini may not have been right to publically lambast his keeper, a stalwart defence has lead Hart to consecutive golden gloves, when he has been second best to David De Gea this time around. Mancini moulded Kompany in to a premium defender, and sold the project to Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero. And when it comes to the latter three, where you’d gave praise 12 months ago fortheir influential parts in winning the league, you must lay blame for this year’s meek surrender. Far too often in football the players get the praise, the manager get’s a mauling.
When it comes to the league surrender, you have to consider the worthiness of the opponent. Mancini was up against the most determined Fergie ever this year, dedicated to winning that 20th title in what would prove to be his final campaign. That said, Mancini has beaten Ferguson before, surely he could do it again? Samir Narsi virtually waved the white flag when he ducked out of Robin van Persie’s firing line, and a win that day in the season’s first derby (more realistically a draw had Carlos Tevez started in place of Mario Balotelli) would’ve seen the end of season gap drop from 10 points to slightly more respectable single figures.
Champions need to add to their squad, evolve and grow. Whilst Mancini can be forgiven for not cashing in on Balotelli after a stellar Euro 2012 with Italy, he’d be lauded as shrewd had he sold him, freeing up funds to be more flexible over a deal for van Persie. In the end, when Mario finally departed, the deal was done too late (end of Janaury), and Balotelli’s exit contributed to City falling 36 goals shy of last terms haul. Mancini nor Brian Marwood should be used as falls guys in City failing to land top targets such as Edin Hazard, Javi Martinez and van Persie. They simply chose other clubs (Chelsea, European Champions; Bayern Munich, runners up; Manchester United, English footballs most successful domestic club). However, the secondary targets list appeared to be drawn up with more haste than a year 8 child’s overdue homework. Nastasic was a superb scouting granted, however Jack Rodwell and Javi Garica at over £35m in place of a now sorely missed Nigel de Jong has proved to be is bad business. Scott Sinclair and Maicon won’t be getting any column inches from me this month.
Former kitman Stephen Aziz has sparked debate over Mancini’s demeanour since his departure, describing him as a ‘piece of work’. I’ve heard concurring views before through people who’ve met former players, who in turn have met Mancini – describing him as abrasive and abrupt, put mildly. Perhaps that’s a positive though, from the fans perspective, at least. A manager that isn’t dictated to by the club, and will remove over influential personalities such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy should be considered a step in the right direction for the atmosphere of any football dressing room. He was bold enough to remove the old school nucleus of the club in Shaun Wright Phillips and Richard Dunne, firm fan favourites, and to a lesser extent Nedum Onouha. Kevin Parker, Supporters Club spokesman would agree with that if his comments in the immediate wake of Mancini’s dismissal are anything to go by. Parker isn’t interested with the personality clashes behind the scenes though, nor am I if it means we are winning trophies. Two out of three ain’t bad at all, and we are now faced with a new manager who may be installed so to bend to what the club, not always what the fans, want.
City fans will never forget the 6-1 at Old Trafford, nor the wins at Wembley and the emphatic conclusion to last season but the manner of the dismissal demonstrates there is no sentiment in football. Pellegrini has experience in these matters himself. Jose Mourhino, another linked candidate penned his deal to succeed the Chilean before the noose had been put around his neck at Real Madrid. Mancini goes in a similar fashion to his predecessor Mark Hughes, but not halfway through the season, trophy-less and seventh, but a week from the season finale, second with two trophies under his belt. Whichever way you cut it, Mancini should’ve been given the Norwich game to hear fans sing his name one last time.
Ultimately, his own undermining’s have harboured what was an imminent dismissal, backtracking on the Tevez situation whilst continuing to humour Mario Balotelli’s antics. A lack of production from Platt Lane, Carrington, Etihad Campus – call it what you will, evidenced Mancini’s lack of understanding of the clubs heritage in the local community. I know a young player in the academy and his name I won’t mention. But his families’ concern is that whilst Mancini was at the helm, the kids weren’t alright at all. Penny for the young lads thoughts now Patrick Vieira has been installed, sharing stories of the next best thing he saw in training that morning over lunch with his friends, City’s first team players.
Targets weren’t hit, according to a club statement. Although Champions League qualification was secured, retention of the title wasn’t. One school of thought was those targets were unrealistic (asking a manager to win consecutive leagues, when the one the year before was the first after such a dry period for the club). Perhaps the club wants success at a faster pace than fans who’ve waited 35 long years. Fans want a legacy, a lasting one at that. Some would accuse the club of wanting what Abramovich has, it feels.
Mancini’s European CV doesn’t do him any favours, not when Mourhino won the Champions League with an inherited squad, and his two cracks Europe’s biggest prize were his ultimate downfall. City set a record for the highest points without qualification from the group stage in 2011-12. In an equally tough group this year, they finished on three, and set a less desirable record in being the first English side in the Champions League format who failed to win a game at the group stage. This lack of progression has cost Mancini his job.
A rumour circulated lately that it was Barcelona, envious of our attempts to lure Pelligirini, leaked the story of Mancini’s fate on the eve of the cup final. If that rumour is to be believed, it was a desperate attempt to derail advanced talks between City and the Chilean.
Underhanded as it seems, that is modern football. But Mancini’s tried to go with grace, posting his gratitude to the City faithful in the Manchester Evening news. City fans may well come to terms with this being the right decision, putting trust in the club after they were so right in the end over Mark Hughes, but for now, grazi Mancini.
New York, New York. It’s a hell of a town. If you wondered what next for City, after expanding their local prescence with the Etihad Campus a short walk from the ground, New York City FC is it. On May 21st City announced it would be launching the 20th MLS Expansion, with New York City FC, a team mirroring City in almost every way on the other side of the pond.
The term ‘expansion’ comes from the growth in football, soccer if you will, over the last fifteen or so years in the US. The MLS was set up in 1996, with just ten teams from the States and Canada competing.
The Abu Dhabi group are looking to take a big bite out of the Big Apple, in a small market by comparison to widely popular sports in America such as baseball, basketball, ice hockey and American football. Football remains largely untapped in the States due to the nature of the sport, speed of play and in part attracting big names to compete.
In the 1970’s, Warner execs, the Ertegun brothers established the New York Cosmo’s who featured Pele, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer and many others but this stellar line-up failed to leave a legacy behind that the quality of talent would’ve commanded in Europe. Eric Cantona’s Cosmo’s continue a revival, and the team website itself is keen to avoid this being branded as a comeback. Apparently the Cosmo’s never went away.
Moreso , did football actually arrive Stateside? Perhaps not, but the emergence of New York City FC could alter that. It creates a rivalry to the aforementioned Cosmo’s and the new York Red Bulls, who have look to drive interest from marquee signings such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill. Though Henry, and to a lesser extend David Beckham (who played for LA Galaxy), coming back to Europe when possible perhaps degrades the brand ‘soccer’ looks to create in America. It’s just not the same for them.
This announcement has a different motive beneath is to say, United selling merchandise in the Yankee Stadium (and vice versa). Ok, you’d be naive to think the Abu Dhabi Group haven’t considered the commercial benefits of this, given it will enhance it’s share in the transatlantic share market dramatically.
City and it’s owners are contributing to the local community. In 2010 the club launched an academy in Spanish Harlem, funding a roof top pitch at a cost of more than £150,000. Not only does it show compassion with an area that struggles on the outskirts of the world’s most famous city, but is something that resonates with players like Carlos Tevez, Pablo Zabaleta and previously Robhino, players who emerged in to world football from less than desirable circumstances in South America.
The deal is believed to be around £66m with the team competing onwards from 2015. At present there is no set venue for matches, but one prospective home is in the Flushing Meadows area of the City, a few miles East of Manhattan island.
Feran Soriana has already started building the infrastructure of the club in terms of personnel with former City midfielder Claudio Reyna, who made an emotional return to Manchester in the wake of his sons death a few months ago, taking the reins as Director of Football. Since hanging up his boots at New York Red Bulls Reyna established his own soccer academy and has been inducted in to the USA Soccer Hall of Fame. Despite these highlights, he endured the loss of his son last year, Jack who loss his battle sadly with cancer.
Attention naturally to turns to what sort of vehicle this could be for the mother club, with an opportunity to generate young talent to compete in City’s team as well as send developing players abroad for more experience. In terms of Financial Fair Play, can the emergence of an American team assist City with the wage bill? Players City are looking to offload will be far more easily persuaded, certainly their families, to take a sabbatical in New York, rather than, let’s say Newcastle.
Fundamentally, this shouldn’t change attitudes of City fans. Although it could as such rapid growth is bound to have an effect on the global perception of the club. The values of our 119 year old club should be at the centre of the New York outfit if the noises that are coming from the clubs are to be believed, and City fans should be mindful of keeping those values at the core of their following of the club. It’s a fortunate and exciting position to be in. Although the Glazers’ haven’t been walking the aisles of the Stretford End slinging hotdogs at cockneys and John W. Henry hasn’t been waving giant foam hands from his corporate box at Anfield, there’s always that risk that Americanism’s could dilute what is, in football, a British institute.
Hopefully City will maintain a strong identity for as long as possible, something the city itself plays a large part it. Afterall, New York probably thinks we’re the coolest City on the plant.