Not only was Saturday's FA Cup final a chance for Manchester City to win their third major trophy under Roberto Mancini, it was also an opportunity for the City fans to present one last united front to their manager.
In the end the deafening support for the affectionately-named ‘Bobby Manc’ throughout the game was not enough; the hierarchy had already made up their minds. They were not about to sit and listen to the views of the fans, and who’s remotely surprised?
Recent events on the pitch have shown us why we all remain so patient with football, why we remain so fiercely loyal.
The Watford vs. Leicester play-off semi-final, the end of the League One season between Brentford and Doncaster and Wigan’s last minute FA Cup victory are all significant examples of the unique madness of the game, the sheer unpredictability that keeps us yearning for more. Perhaps fittingly it was Mancini’s City side that provided us with the greatest moment in Premier League history, a year to the day before he was sacked so robotically. Football has not changed, the people who run it have.
There can be arguments made for and against Mancini’s departure. He delivered them their first title since 1967-68 season, which followed FA Cup success the previous year. His detractors will inevitably point to more recent failures. His inability to find a way out of the Champions’ League group stage for the second successive time, his inability to mount a significant challenge to Manchester United and most recently the inability of his side to dominate and ultimately defeat a then relegation-threatened Wigan at Wembley on Saturday.
Football is bound to split opinion; there are many that think that Mancini should have been allowed at least one more season. After all, he wasn’t properly backed in the transfer market last summer. There are some who think he has massively underachieved with a squad full of talent. There have also been persistent rumours of discontent, which has not helped his case.
But what cannot be argued is the predictability of this sacking. Sure, there may be outrage. There are many that think that City have acted with a complete lack of class and grace. But after a season with no trophies, it will be difficult to find anyone genuinely taken aback by this news. Like it or loathe it, football becomes more and more business-like at the turn of every new Premier League season. The Manchester City official statement read that Mancini and the club had ‘failed to achieve any of its targets stated this year’. A statement that would be right at home on Alan Sugar’s BBC One show The Apprentice, as he informs his potential business partners that they are all in fact useless and rubbish.
The statement also declares the ‘regret’ that the club feel at relieving the manager of his duties. Don’t kid yourselves, there’s no genuine regret here. The only regret for the current owners will be if the incoming manager is unable to ‘maximise the potential’ of the squad, ultimately biting them on the backside. It is hard to believe there will even be a second thought for Mancini from the hierarchy if Manuel Pellegrini rocks up and restores the league title.
This is not to say City are the only club like this. Chelsea are the glaringly obvious. Sacking your manager just months after he lifted the Champions League title quite frankly shows a lack of respect more than anything.
But don't be fooled into thinking the big boys with the big cash are alone in this. Nigel Adkins guided Southampton to two straight promotions, and his side were sitting three points above the relegation zone when he was replaced by Mauricio Pochettino. A calculated move by executive chairman Nicola Cortese. A move that will hinge on the success of the new coach. If the club moves forward under their new-found direction, it will be hailed as natural progression, great vision. Falter or stand still, and the men at the top find themselves under attack from all corners, both the press and the fans. It is just the way football now works.
While fans may not want to move on, they are simply forced to. They do not own the club, the person with the cash does. Demonstrations are admirable but pointless. The people upstairs are willing to try and ride the storm, it’s their nature. It is a credit to the fans that people such as Mancini and Di Matteo, who have helped shape the history of their clubs, will not be forgotten. No matter how owners and chairmen may be vindicated, the fans remain the most important thing. City’s support right until the end highlights the loyalty and long memory of the football fan, even if the rapidly changing Premier League seems to have no time for such traits.
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