A year to the day after he led Manchester City to their first league title in 44 years, Roberto Mancini lost his job.
This was late on the evening of Monday, just over 48 hours after his team had failed to beat Wigan Athletic in an FA Cup final that they went into as overwhelming favourites.
The decision has been met with ridicule in many corners of the footballing world, with Sheikh Mansour, the club’s owner, being likened to Chelsea’s trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich. Malaga’s Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini heads the list of those to replace Mancini.
Here’s five reasons why Manchester City were right to fire the Italian.
1. They lost the title to Manchester United
This will hurt City fans the most. Not only did they lose the title back to their fiercest rivals but they lost it convincingly, unable to even force United into sweating through May. Mancini became the 19th, and last, City manager to be outlasted by Sir Alex Ferguson as he romped to his 13th league title.
2. Poor investment last summer
While Ferguson won the signature of Robin van Persie, whose 25 league goals ultimately made the difference for United, Mancini added just Scott Sinclair, Maicon, Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Matija Nastasic to the side that won the title in such dramatic fashion in 2011/12.
The manner in which City won the league, in the last minute of the last game of the season, should have told Mancini that his side were still not the finished article and required serious investment. Of his signings, only Nastasic can be viewed as a success at this stage. With the budget he had at his disposal, Mancini’s dealings in the summer transfer window of 2012 were nothing short of lazy.
3. Relationship with players
Mancini had a series of high-profile spats with - admittedly, notoriously difficult - players. This led to the January sale of the mercurial Mario Balotelli (without replacement) and the six-month exile of Carlos Tevez in the title-winning season (Tevez’s return could actually be seen as a catalyst for the late-season revival that led to the title).
He publicly criticised his players when they didn’t perform to his expectations, causing training ground rifts and further drops in confidence. This can be seen most markedly in the performances this season of Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott, such rocks in the watertight title-winning defence, and Samir Nasri, who looks a shadow of the player Mancini signed in the summer of 2011.
4. Champions League failure
This is possibly the most important point on this list. A club of City’s ambition and financial clout have every right to be unhappy at failing to make it out of the group stages of the Champions League in consecutive years.
Yes, they were in the "Group of Death" both years, but to fail to win a game in the group this season shows misplaced priorities, tactics and understanding of how to succeed at this level. Having won the Premier League, it was understandable for City’s fans to expect more on the European stage but, alas, they failed to even qualify for the Europa League by virtue of a third-place finish.
5. He lost the FA Cup final to Wigan
The straw that broke the camel’s back. Ben Watson’s 90th-minute header subjected City to a trophy-less season and ultimately led to Mancini’s departure.
For such overwhelming favourites to lose to a team relegated just three days later was criminal. City lacked the bite, drive and passion of their opponents and paid the ultimate price.
So, there you have it. In the wake of Ferguson’s retirement, all the talk has been of longevity and stability bringing success. This is true, but only if the right man is at the helm.
Talk has been of Ferguson’s seven trophy-less seasons as United manager, and how a season without silverware is not necessarily the end of the world. Once again, this is true; however, City were demolished this year.
With a game to go, they are 10 points off the pace in the Premier League and were shamed in the Champions League.
Longevity and stability may breed success, but based on this season’s evidence, with Mancini at the helm, City may have found themselves treading water for some years to come.
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