May 13, 2011

Mancini's defining moment

Posted by Rebecca Lowe on 13/05/2011

Roberto Mancini could win a domestic cup with a fourth club at Wembley. © Getty Images

After nearly 18 months in charge of Manchester City, and a defining week in his reign, I think Saturday will be the day that Roberto Mancini is judged. A win against Tottenham on Tuesday night secured Champions League football for the first time and now the Italian could end the club’s 35-year wait for a trophy in the FA Cup final against Stoke City on Sunday.

If, as expected, Manchester City beat Stoke to win their first piece of silverware since the 1976 League Cup, then Mancini will have done exactly what he was told to do by the club’s billionaire owners: finish in the top four and win a cup. However, should it all go wrong at Wembley, the jury will still be out. Is a place in the Champions League qualifiers an adequate return on the investment put into the club? I think that is yet to be determined.

I also think there are still legitimate complaints about City’s style of play, from fans and pundits alike, given how much money they have spent in recent seasons. I recently interviewed Nigel de Jong and put this issue to him. He said that we all know where the manager is from, and he is right. Mancini is from a country where a cautious style of play is ingrained into him. He is what he is, and if you are going to employ him then you have to accept that style of football.

If those in charge of Manchester City ultimately want to see a more attractive style, as Roman Abramovich did at Chelsea, they will need a fresh approach. They might be successful under Mancini and perhaps they will win the title next season, but they won’t do it playing expansive, carpet football. They will win it with 1-0s and 2-1s. I think it is a fair complaint from fans that they are not being entertained as much as they should be.

Of course, even if they do win the FA Cup on Saturday, Manchester City’s parade could be well and truly rained on. If they win silverware for the first time in 35 years, then they will surely be fighting for space on the back pages with Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United’s 19th league title, as it is likely the red half of the city will be celebrating the point they need against Blackburn. If United win and then City lose, it would be one of the worst days in the club’s history. So, given that scenario, City fans will be even more desperate to win the trophy.

Saturday will be a fascinating game. Manchester City’s vulnerability lies in crosses and they don’t look particularly hot from set-pieces. I think Tony Pulis might look at that and be encouraged about the Rory Delap long throw, and the delivery from wide positions of Jermaine Pennant and Matthew Etherington, should the latter recover from injury in time to take his place in the side. Really, Manchester City should win. End of story. But we could well have a shock on our hands given how impressive Stoke were in their 5-0 defeat of Bolton in the semi-final. Their subsequent form since then has also been eye-catching and has seen them rise to eighth in the table.

Given that Carlos Tevez made his return from injury against Spurs, albeit for only seven minutes, he will surely start at Wembley. He will probably play as the lone striker with two players wide of him, possibly David Silva and Adam Johnson. If Tevez is short of fitness, though, then Mancini will probably go with Edin Dzeko as Mario Balotelli is too much of a risk in the biggest game for City in many a year.

In fact, I don’t think we are going to see Balotelli in English football for much longer. He has certainly sparked debate in the media as he is a constant source of stories and everybody loves a character. But in some people’s eyes he has stepped over the line too frequently this season. I think if he had scored 20 goals like Chicharito in his debut season then he would be more of a loveable rogue. At the moment he is just a rogue.

Whether Mancini stays or goes, I think it is unlikely Balotelli will be at the club come August. However, given the kind of person he is and the talent he possesses, he could easily come on and score the winner in the FA Cup final and forever be a Manchester City hero.


Posted by spark on 13/05/2011

and Carlo Ancelotti of Chelsea is from where???

Posted by mario on 13/05/2011

Why the balloteli hatred, you carp on about what a swine he has been yet fail to mention any of the posiitve stories about him, why is that ? is it because it gives your point less credence? no mention of the £1000 given to the homeless man, no mention of the several hoyrs he spent at st anns hospice, where he was throughly charming, no mention of the schoolboy who was being bullied that he helped to sort out, im all for free speech but at least temper your facts with a bit of the truth.

Posted by Dave on 13/05/2011

What a biased article full of anti-City comments. If you win, ah it was expected anyway. If you lose it will be the worst day in your history.
Balotelli will be going nowhere, this season he won the "Golden Boy award" given out to the top under-21-year-old playing in Europe. He is full of talent and considers Mancini a father figure.
City fairly beat Utd in the semi and fully deserve to win the most prestigous domestic cup in Europe.

Posted by Craig on 13/05/2011

Fair comments I'd say, and I'm a Blue. The only thing I disagree with is "If United win and then City lose, it would be one of the worst days in the club’s history."- here Rebecca, you show your lack of knowledge about where Manchester City have come form. Trust me, not a single Blue will complain about tomorrow no matter what the outcome- how could a team and set of fans that has been through the mill so many times possibly complain about reaching a Cup Final? It's a day the fans will enjoy and remember for the rest of their lives and the club are doing everything to ensure that all Blues go into the game with a smile on our faces.

Posted by Rob Owen on 13/05/2011

Hi, It makes laugh how City are perceived in the media, we are so negative yet we have scored more goals at home and away than Tottenham this season. We always play 3 defensive midfielders? If Yaya toure's role is a DM then he has not been listening to Mancini all season. As for Balotelli he his still finding his feet, were Drogba, Bergkamp, Henry all judged by one season in the Premiership?

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