By Andi Thomas and Alex Netherton
This weekend was about the reign of a man. A hero to his fans for the unrivalled period of success he brought them. At times at odds with his board, with a noted style of picking fights to settle scores. On one of the biggest days in the history of his club, it was defined most notably by a sense of deep, deep sadness. Now his tenure has come to its end, cruelly. The club can still, though, expect more success to come. You have to ask, has Roberto Mancini ever been so badly treated before?
The answer, of course, is yes. He’s been treated much worse – he indisputably deserves the sack at Manchester City. Here’s why:
Working with Brian Marwood: A lot has been made of Marwood’s failures to deliver Mancini’s top transfer targets, but what kind of man would choose to work with Brian Marwood (and Garry Cook) anyway? The man is denser than antimatter’s energy. The man can barely talk about what he fancies for lunch without somebody stepping in to take him home before he hurts himself. If you do a deal with the devil, you can expect to get burned. If you trust your transfer dealings with a man only marginally clever than a stuffed toy, you then can’t complain when you get Scott Sinclair.
Working with a club that is owned by the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates: The United Arab Emirates has a history of vile human rights abuses. This includes the death penalty for homosexuality, the fact that 80% of its population don’t really have any rights, and that relies on indentured servitude i.e. slavery as a mainstay of the local economy. If you take a job working for these people, you can’t expect them to pause to get rid of you when you can’t even beat Wigan Athletic.
Not even beating Wigan Athletic: You can enjoy the romance of the cup all you want, but Wigan Athletic are probably going to get relegated because the quality of their players is essentially not good enough for the Premier League, however pretty their passing looks. If you have hundreds upon hundreds of millions of pounds of players and cannot beat Wigan Athletic, you don’t deserve a job – even if the players aren’t motivated, that isn’t an excuse with such a talent gap.
Not being able to motivate any players: Samir Nasri, David Silva, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Joe Hart, Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero, and Gareth Barry are just a selection of the players who have underperformed compared to their peaks for Manchester City this season. The only player who has improved is James Milner, which comes with its own moral. Perhaps unwisely, Mancini’s sole motivational technique was to try to abuse his players in press conferences. For whatever unfathomable reason, this served only to exacerbate the situation, and City fell further and further behind in the title race. We are not psychologists, and so we cannot possibly work out why world class players did not take kindly to being insulted and goaded by a plainly limited manager who had consistently failed in Europe.
Which brings us to: There’s been enough written about Alex Ferguson this week, that to add to it beyond a brief passage would just be narcissism and wallowing. He was a ridiculously good manager. He was a properly hard bastard. Even in his retirement speech he was managing for the future. He reminded his players to never let themselves down and talked of what the club, players and fans meant to him. So far, so glib. Then, he confirmed, despite paper stories that Wayne Rooney had not asked for a transfer a few weeks back, that in fact Rooney had just done that. Whether it is true or not doesn’t really matter – what is remarkable is that Wayne Rooney might want to leave and he might not, but that hasn’t affected Ferguson one bit. He might be from a family of boxers, but Rooney just got sucker punched. And that is the difference between Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini. One of them is the best manager in England, and the other is Roberto Mancini.