Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City ship is taking on water and he might be running out of time to save it

It was only last week that Manchester City came away from Stamford Bridge with a point probably knowing they could and should have taken all three. It was the classic case of both teams ensuring that they didn’t lose. Manuel Pellegrini’s men attacked, vying for the win, whilst Chelsea did what Jose Mourinho’s sides do best: frustrate, remain solid and break with pace. No real surprise then that the final score was 1-1.

Yet following Saturday’s dismal showing against Hull City at a flat Etihad Stadium the performance of the previous week was instantly forgotten. And the gap that was at five points now stands at seven.

It’s not the points difference, however, that remains Pellegrini’s biggest problem. Manchester City are no strangers to overturning deficits. As their fans sing they “fight ‘til the end”. We’ve seen them do it before twice overtaking the league-leaders – Manchester United and Liverpool – in the two seasons that they won the title. And, of course, nobody will forget the QPR game.

The problem for Pellegrini is that the impressive Chelsea performance papered over the cracks. City haven’t won a Premier League match since New Year’s Day, they crashed out of the FA Cup following a 2-0 defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough at the Etihad and the goals are starting to dry up.

City’s loss of form has coincided with the departure of Yaya Toure, currently away on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations. His return, alongside new signing Wilfried Bony, should help the Blues resurrect their title challenge. And it’s something that needs to happen quickly, because the team look lost without him at present and the current midfield axis of Fernando and Fernandinho does not look worthy of the champions.

The former Porto midfielder Fernando, signed in the summer for around £12 million is increasingly looking like a poor buy, and it’s no wonder that with Toure away James Milner can feel frustrated at not being given the opportunity to play in his preferred central midfield role.

Yet the ever-reliable Milner has become a more permanent fixture in the City side this season and is fast becoming as important to the team as David Silva. The England regular may have a reputation for being slightly bland and is often underrated by fans who don’t support the team he plays for, but one thing’s for sure City would be worse off this season without him.

It was Milner’s heroics that spared their blushes on Saturday afternoon with a last-gasp equaliser. Likewise early in January when the Blues almost exited the FA Cup at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday. And he was arguably City’s best player against Chelsea last weekend. It surely must be high on the Pellegrini priority list to tie Milner down to a new contract, with his current deal expiring this summer.

As seasons go for Manchester City this one has been more reminiscent of the pre-Sheikh days. Back when the phrase “Typical City” was a lot more prominent. Their current form has scary similarities to that of earlier in the year before the Sergio Aguero-inspired Bayern Munich victory in the Champions League. The spine of the team in Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Silva and Aguero are all looking off the pace against the lesser lights of the Premier League at present – particularly at home.

There’s no tempo, there’s a lack of creativity and there’s comical defending. All of which were apparent on Saturday. Pellegrini may get the praise for playing attacking football, but Mourinho is the man that is delivering the results and charging his team to the summit. City’s goals have started to dry up and they’re not entertaining in the same manner that they were last year.

With persistent rumours linking City to Pep Guardiola and the club’s Director of Football Txiki Begiristain admitting that only a handful of coaches – including the Bayern Munich manager – have the required philosophy to manage the Blues, Pellegrini’s replacement may be being sounded out. Especially with the Chilean entering the last 18 months of his contract at the age of 61.

Of course, there’s plenty of the season left in which it can be turned around. But the Manchester City ship is taking on water and the composed Pellegrini, whose contract runs until the summer 2016, might be running out of time to save it.

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It’s another gaffe but Hart should not be dropped

As Fernando Torres wheeled away in celebration, much to the delight of the 40,000 Chelsea fans packed inside Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the spotlight once again beamed brightly onto Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Whilst the majority of the City team looked to the sky in despair, Pablo Zabaleta, the marauding right-back, sank to his knees distraught at the drama he had just witnessed. As Hart stormed to his goal line to retrieve the ball from the net, the anger etched on his face was plain to see. “Keeper’s, f****** keeper’s,” he could be seen saying. A call his defender Matija Nastasic clearly had not heard…

Read more at:
http://www.wnol.info/its-another-gaffe-but-hart-should-not-be-dropped/

Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United: Comment

For fifty minutes at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday Manchester City lay down a marker to the rest of the Premier League. Four-nil up and cruising against their biggest rivals for the league title, Manuel Pellegrini portrayed a man who had ice in his veins on the sidelines. Whilst the Chilean’s counterpart in the opposing dug-out, David Moyes, struggled to comprehend with the demolition he was witnessing, Pellegrini was content that his side were finally beginning to implement his methods.

For as bad as Manchester United were on Sunday, City were every bit as impressive. Taking control of the match from the first minute. Led by the magnificent Vincent Kompany, his first Premier League game since Newcastle on the opening weekend, the Blues pressed their neighbours on the rare occasions Manchester United had control of possession in the first half. Yaya Toure, a beacon in midfield, ran United new-boy Marouane Fellaini ragged. Rio Ferdinand will be haunted by Sergio Aguero everywhere he looks over the next few days and Nemanja Vidic will sleep with one eye open after being bullied by the beastly Alvaro Negredo.

But perhaps the most significant performance, from the blue half of Manchester’s perspective, was that of Samir Nasri. Much maligned since his £25m move two years ago from Arsenal, the 26-year-old showed just why he was worthy of a hefty price tag. Covering more distance than anyone else on the field and playing a part in two of the Blues’ goals before scoring the fourth, Nasri came into his own. With the mercurial David Silva missing from the starting line-up, his absence was barely noticed given the manner in which the Frenchman deputised.

As laudable as the City performance was the spotlight may well focus on the inept display from Manchester United. Wayne Rooney’s performance the only positive for Moyes on a day of many negatives. The England striker’s sublime free-kick minutes from time was not even celebrated such was its irrelevance. But for Moyes the hard work will start in earnest when United face Liverpool in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. The 50-year-old Scot was said to have given his players the infamous United ‘hairdryer’ on Sunday, though whether it’s as effective as his predecessor’s remains to be seen.

Whilst the defensive errors which ultimately cost United three goals can be both attributed to the players on the pitch and ironed out, Moyes must take responsibility for the way he dithered on the sidelines. At half-time, 2-0 down and looking second best in every position, Moyes needed to bring at least one of his benched attacking trio of Javier Hernandez, Nani and Shinji Kagawa onto the field. With Ashley Young struggling to get anywhere near City’s formidable right of Pablo Zabaleta and Jesus Navas and Antonio Valencia repeatedly failing to track Aleksandar Kolarov’s bursting runs, City were having incredible joy down the flanks – something unheard of under Roberto Mancini.

Yet it was the introduction of Tom Cleverley, an extra presence in the United midfield, coupled with City perhaps taking their foot off the accelerator that saw United commendably bring themselves back into the game but it was too little too late with the Reds 4-0 down. Rooney’s free-kick following an over-zealous challenge from Matija Nastasic was sensational, but the response of the 27-year-old, who broke the record for the most goals scored in a Manchester derby, told its own story. United were down and out.

With a scoreline emphasising such domination it is easy to compare it to City’s 6-1 mauling of United at Old Trafford two seasons ago. But the performance on Sunday deserves more merit than that of the 6-1. The result at Old Trafford the season before last was a one-off with United naively pressing at 3-1 with 10 men and only minutes remaining. Sunday saw City boss the game from the start.

Though Kompany and co. will play down its significance, the result will send shockwaves across the Premier League. With just five games played it is still far too early to talk about potential title winners, though one thing is clear. The City camp appears much happier under Pellegrini than they were last season under Mancini.

Farewell Sir Alex – a City ‘tribute’

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As inspirational Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany so eloquently and respectfully posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning: “Sir Alex, one of the best managers of all time. After 26 years of success in the game, we all owe him a tribute.”

Well said Vinnie, here is mine…

With Manchester United officially confirming Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the season – a mile down the road you could hear the laughter emanating from the blue half of the city. Whilst United fans lament the decision taken by undoubtedly the greatest manager English football has ever seen, Manchester City fans are starting to party – and rightly so. Did someone say jelly and ice cream?

Over the past 26 years we have had to endure the dominance of our bitter rivals with Sir Alex at the helm. We’ve seen 14 managers come and go in the time that the 71-year-old Scot has been in charge over the road. Now he’s the one that’s finally going.

When Sir Alex took charge of Manchester United back in 1986, City were managed by former Oldham player Jimmy Frizzell. He was out the door by May the following year having relegated us. We saw Mel Machin replace him, win promotion and beat United 5-1 in what was described as the lowest point of Sir Alex’s career…up until the shenanigans of last season’s 6-1 victory at Old Trafford. Following Machin there was Howard Kendall, Peter Reid, Brian Horton, Alan Ball, Steve Coppell, Frank Clark, Joe Royle, Kevin Keegan, Stuart Pearce, Sven-Goran Eriksson and Mark Hughes. Unless City do something crazy and sack Roberto Mancini, the Italian will be the only manager Sir Alex won’t have seen off in 26 years.

The announcement of Sir Alex’s retirement came as a surprise to many though perhaps it really shouldn’t. There have been signs for a while that the inevitable end to his tenure was fast approaching. Not just because it would have happened last season if not for little Sergio Aguero. Not just because he’s a 71-year-old with a pacemaker and due a hip operation. But because when Ashley Williams booted the ball at the back of Robin van Persie’s head earlier this season, Sir Alex claimed it could have “killed” his star striker. He was starting to lose the plot.

For the last few seasons there has been an enjoyable war between the two Manchester clubs. With both finally competing for the same trophies, Sir Alex’s self-proclaimed “noisy neighbours” were knocking on his door culminating in last season’s epic final day of the season. And although the mind games between Sir Alex and Roberto Mancini might end, they’ll presumably be taken up once David Moyes is announced as United’s new manager.

Most City fans look at the side that has proficiently beaten us to the Premier League this season and wonder how it happened. But deep down we know why. Sir Alex Ferguson consistently managed to squeeze the best out of his team – regardless of how good or bad they were. Sure, he built a good team at Old Trafford these last two years but it’s nowhere near his best side, yet their results have been nothing short of impressive. That’s the Sir Alex factor, and that’s why we’re happy he’s going.

It is the end of an era at Old Trafford. There will be a lot of United fans – and football fans in general – who will not be able to recall a time when Sir Alex wasn’t perched in his seat at the Theatre of Dreams or fervently gesticulating at the officials from the touchline. One can only imagine Ryan Giggs turning up to training next season looking like a lost puppy. Sir Alex is the only club manager Ryan Giggs has ever known – and he made his debut 22 years ago.

The final game of the season for United against West Brom will see Sir Alex take charge of his 1500th (and final!) game as Manchester United manager. In his 26 years in charge he has won 38 trophies – including 13 league titles, two Champions League trophies and five FA Cups. It’s remarkable really. That’s why we’re rejoicing. There won’t ever be a manager like him again. And there probably won’t ever be a dynasty at a club like his at Old Trafford. That’s why he deserves respect even if, like the vast majority of City fans, you didn’t particularly like him.

Despite his bitter jibes and rambling rants about referees in the modern game, football will miss the red-faced Scot.

Farewell Sir Alex. Enjoy your retirement.

Soap-opera City need another ‘miracle’

If ever there were to be a prize awarded to a club for “doing things the hard way” it would almost inevitably be handed to soap-opera club Manchester City.

They are a side that leave it until the last five minutes to take a play-off final to extra time and then penalties. They are a side that leave it until the last three minutes of the season to clinch their first ever Premier League title.

They are Manchester City, and they do it the hard way.

Defeat in the final minutes to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu and defeat at the Amsterdam ArenA – the home of Dutch champions Ajax – has left Manchester City with an almost impossible task of qualifying for the second round of the Champions League.  Manager Roberto Mancini has described their plight as in dire need of a ‘miracle’. Manchester City are in the mire, and they only have themselves to blame.

Expectations have soared to a whole new level following Sergio Aguero’s last gasp winner against QPR last season that sent Manchester City fans into absolute ecstasy. They were going to spend further in the summer, strengthen a squad that was already brimming with talent and steamroll their way to the top like the juggernaut they want to become.

Manchester City players look shell-shocked as Ajax cruise to victory

Reality struck. Financial Fair Play rules – whether they will ever be introduced or not is a different debate – prevented City from splashing the Sheikh’s cash on the “top names” Mancini wanted. The likes of Daniele De Rossi opted to stay at Roma, rather than join City. Things didn’t go exactly as Mancini wanted, leaving him frustrated.

Despite a subdued transfer window, City remain unbeaten in the Premier League but even whilst it is not their main priority this season, their Champions League form has been particularly woeful.

It is testament to the quality of their opposition in the Champions League that Joe Hart has been the Blues’ best player over the three games played. The England international has established himself as one of the very best around over the course of the campaign and his sensational form has kept City alive in the competition.

Against Real Madrid, City put up a good effort. Taking the lead twice and relying on Hart they were doing well until a tactical change saw them change to three at the back. It was a change that played into the hands of Madrid, allowing them to push on and win the game. Cristiano Ronaldo exploited the space and the rest, as they say, is history.

At the Etihad Stadium, there was optimism. After all, City had gone to the Bernabeu and were five minutes away from getting a famous result. The Blues would surely be able to rise to the challenge of Borussia Dortmund. They weren’t.

Having taken a point from their three games so far in the group stages, City are clinging on by the skin of their teeth. They’re in that position because they deserve to be there. The performances haven’t been good enough to qualify for the second round. Their performances haven’t even been good enough for them to be worthy of qualifying for the Europa League. And the only man you sympathise with is Hart, because if there is one player deserving to go further on in the competition it is him. Nobody else has performed.

Three wins from three could see them claw their way through. It’s unlikely, but if any club can do it you’d put your money on it being City.

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If Manchester City do not win the league this season only one man is to blame…

When the final whistle blows at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday May 13th an inquest will begin, regardless of whether Manchester City will have been crowned champions or not. With seven games remaining and a five point gap between them and league leaders Manchester United it seems an unlikely task. The optimists in the blue half of Manchester will claim that with United still having to play their title rivals City at the Etihad Stadium as well as needing to visit Everton and Sunderland before the season finishes it is not all over. The more pessimistic blues will admit that the title seems likely to head back to Old Trafford.

If Manchester City do fail in their pursuit of the Premier League title then there can be only one man to blame. Roberto Mancini’s side seem to have fallen at the last hurdle and are stumbling towards the finish line. There is time to rectify it but it is now out of their hands and that is where the inquest will begin. Having dominated the league for the majority of the season and seen a healthy goal advantage slip away questions will be asked of Mancini by the City hierarchy. The recent slump has happened at the worst possible time and has left many questioning whether City had the nerve and experience to stay the distance.

It is not just the stuttering league form that has raised eyebrows in the boardroom however; Mancini’s handling of internal difficulties such as the Carlos Tévez situation and his persistence in standing by Mario Balotelli are also causing problems.

When the young Italian eventually matures he may become a world class player but at the moment his talent remains described as ‘potential’. He has shown glimpses of his incredible skill on a number of occasions this season yet his general demeanour both on and off the pitch overshadows that. Whether he is setting his house ablaze with fireworks or driving around Manchester city centre in his Bentley handing out £20 notes, the Blues’ enigmatic striker is certainly favoured by Mancini. It is this favouritism though which could cost Mancini his job. On the one hand it is admirable that the manager has such faith in Balotelli yet, on the other, it could be seen as blind loyalty and one which is not benefiting the club.

Sir Alex Ferguson called it “desperation” but City saw it as moving on and making the best out of a bad situation. Carlos Tévez’ return to Manchester has received a mixed reaction. Some are willing to accept his apology, draw a line in the sand and move on – after all he is a wonderful footballer. Others however, cannot accept his apology and do not want him near the club. It was a fine balancing act for Mancini, a chance to show that nobody, despite their immense talent, is bigger than the club. He got it wrong.

Roberto Mancini appears to be feeling the pressure as the title race hots up.

 

Back in November it was clear that Mancini did not want Tévez to play for him ever again. He had disgraced himself, embarrassed the club and the manager but more importantly shown a complete lack of respect to everybody associated to Manchester City by refusing to come on as a substitute. The response from the team was sensational Premier League form and a prolonged spell at the top of the table. The response from Tévez was a five month holiday in Argentina and a refusal to apologise. It could have been so much easier if he had apologised straight away. Having said that, knowing Tévez, it probably took him those five months to learn how to say the word ‘sorry’ in English.

Despite this City have improved once again under Mancini, and although it is likely they will finish trophy less it is another step in the right direction. He deserves another season to continue building a side which is capable of staying the distance and progressing further in Europe but it remains to be seen if he will get it. With Jose Mourinho’s name being touted as a possible replacement there may be another managerial change at the Etihad Stadium.

Although unlucky with the injury and suspension of club captain Vincent Kompany at key points during the title challenge, Mancini has to take the blame for the demise of City’s season. To have such a healthy league position at the half way stage and to now be trailing United by five points is inexcusable. At times this season Mancini has had a cool exterior, yet at others he seems to be feeling the pressure. His failure to shake Tony Pulis’ hand at the Britannia Stadium a few weeks ago and subsequent refusal to speak to the media was not only undignified and unsporting, but also a sign that he was maybe cracking up. After all, Stoke City played as expected. They were strong, aggressive and difficult to beat.

It has been apparent for weeks that City’s maestro David Silva is either carrying an injury, fatigued or has just hit a bad run of form yet Mancini’s persistence in playing him is highlighting a problem within his team. With Samir Nasri not hitting the heights that many expected him to, Silva has been the main playmaker and it is finally taking its toll on the Spanish wizard. The Blues’ over reliance on Silva being the creative force indicates that Mancini is still not satisfied with the squad he has. He lacks quality wingers to change his team’s style of play and the lack of width has been identified as a major problem in recent weeks. Despite the charging runs of the likes of Gael Clichy and Micah Richards, width is a concern especially following the disappointing performances of Adam Johnson and Nasri over the season. With rumours suggesting City are lining up a move for Eden Hazard, expect Johnson to be sold in the summer with Liverpool a possible destination. They have a habit of overpaying for players who flatter to deceive.

With millions having been ploughed into the club, the Abu Dhabi based owners are looking for a return on their investment. It remains to be seen if they have the patience to acknowledge that despite a potentially disappointing end to the season Mancini has improved the side. There will be departures and arrivals in the summer that much is clear, but whether Roberto Mancini will be one of the departures only the Sheikh knows.

Will Mancini be the manager next season? Do you want him to stay? Leave your comments below.

 

Swansea City 1 Manchester City 0

Manchester City’s title hopes were dealt a massive blow as a late winner from Swansea super-sub Luke Moore saw the Welsh side take all three points at the Liberty Stadium. The striker had been on the field for only a matter of minutes before a poorly defended cross from the impressive Wayne Routledge was headed past Joe Hart in the 82nd minute. Cue pandemonium in the stands both in Wales and at Old Trafford.

After a 2-0 victory against West Brom, Manchester United headed to the top of the Barclays Premier League, a position Manchester City had held since October.

It could have been much worse for the Blues however, had Scott Sinclair managed to despatch his fifth minute penalty. After a bright start the ball was played through to Routledge who was brought down by Hart, City felt aggrieved but it was a difficult decision that referee Lee Mason decided to give to the hosts. A poor penalty from Sinclair saw Hart guess correctly and get a strong hand to prevent the Swans from going one up.

The first half was dominated by Swansea but their failure to create clear-cut goal scoring opportunities allowed City to find their way back into the game. A tactical change by Roberto Mancini shortly after the half hour mark saw Gareth Barry replaced by Sergio Aguero and it changed the game. The Blues looked livelier, kept possession better and began to get a foothold in the game.

It was much better from City in the second half but Swansea still created chances; a dangerous cross from Routledge fizzed into the box just evading Danny Graham. The Blues were living dangerously. As Yaya Toure began to control the game, City patiently began to probe but just could not quite break down the impressive Swansea defence.

With the end of the game approaching and a draw looking inevitable a quick break from Swansea saw them break City’s hearts and take the lead. It was the Blues’ man-of-the-match Yaya Toure who was caught in possession after a poor pass from defender Stefan Savic. The young Montenegrin was returning to the team alongside captain for the day Kolo Toure in the absence of the injured Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott.

As the Blues rallied for the last five minutes they thought they had snatched a late equaliser. The ball was crossed into the box and a commanding leap from Micah Richards saw him head the ball past Michel Vorm in the Swansea goal. With Richards reeling away in celebration he failed to see the assistant on the far side flagging for offside. It was a bitter pill for City to swallow, but Richards was narrowly offside.

Deep into injury time City again piled the pressure; even Hart came forward for a late free kick but to no avail. The game finished 1-0 to Swansea and City are now a point behind Manchester United with ten games remaining. The season is not yet over and it looks likely that it will all come down to the Manchester derby on Monday 30th April. Out of the two, City have the more difficult run in and if they want to win the league they must win their remaining games and perform better than they did against Swansea.

What are your side made of Roberto?

 

What did you make of the performance? Can Manchester City still win the league? Have your say below.