Mancini hopes that success makes for the best argument
So, for the second time in three seasons Manchester City heads to Wembley to contest the FA Cup Final.
April 17th, 2013
Much has changed since their first visit in 2011, when Yaya Toure’s goal saw City lift the famous old trophy and put to bed 35 long years without silverware, not least the fact that instead of basking in the glory and job security that an FA Cup and subsequent Premier League win brings, Roberto Mancini will lead his City side out with doubts over his future at the club still remaining.
Win the FA Cup in a month’s time (and City will very much start as favourites) and the Italian will have been responsible for City’s most successful trophy haul since the days of Bell, Lee, Summerbee et al back in the late 1960s. Yet the landscape has shifted immeasurably in the past few years at the club. The win in 2011 felt more like the achievement of expectation, a feeling that it was merely the beginning as opposed to the end of a journey.
It is not known what the City hierarchy plans to do regarding his future. In the wake of City’s title win Mancini was handed a bumper new contract, taking him through to 2017; yet the feeling is that a degree of Mancini’s previous power and control now lies in the hands of Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain; the former Barcelona duo now very much at the helm and about to approach their first summer in situ at the club. The difficulty is that the pair maintains such a low profile that you feel they could (and may well do) stroll down Market Street without so much as a sideways glance being cast in their direction. If they have made a decision they are certainly not showing their hand.
So with the potential for the third season in succession with a trophy in the cabinet, why do questions remain over Mancini’s future? Rightly or wrongly, what an FA Cup win would do – aligned with the derby win and a recent upswing in form – is increase frustrations over how and why City will likely finish double digit points behind United in the league. In the press conference following the victory over Chelsea, Mancini felt that although United were deserved winners, City should have taken the race to the final ‘two or three games’. All too often City has failed to come even close to the heights of last season, and far too many points have been wasted along the way. His continual referrals to what he perceives to be the errors in the transfer dealings last summer also may not have endeared him, and his abrasive style does not endear him universally within the dressing room but his support on the terraces is as strong as it has ever been.
Although Pep Guardiola is now off the market, the names of Manuel Pellegrini and Frank de Boer have been well linked but would either really be an upgrade? It is difficult to argue that either – or any other prospective candidate – would necessarily have improved upon Mancini’s record but the club are not solely thinking of the here and now, but planning for the long term to embed a culture that will serve the club for the next decade and beyond.
His confrontational style may not suit everyone and he has undoubtedly put noses out of joint with some of his less mindful comments over the course of the season, but much of this likely stems from frustration at seeing his side underperform for the most part this season. This is a paradox that the club has to consider: that for all the headlines he is capable of making, Mancini continues to deliver an impressive body of work in terms of the ultimate currency, trophies, to continue to stake his claim that he should remain the man at the helm at the club.