At some point this season, just after Manchester City most likely outplayed your club, you must have concluded that any team – regardless of how it is managed – would be this successful with the kind of star power that the Citizens possess.
Well, as you may already know, there are many, many others who share this perspective when it comes to evaluating the impact of City manager Roberto Mancini. For all his accomplishments at the Eastlands thus far, it seems that most football fans refuse to give the Italian much credit for catalyzing a revival at Etihad Stadium.
Those who look beyond what’s visible in hindsight, though, will realize that the wisdom Mancini brings thanks to an enviable record of winning championships throughout his career is not only important, but simply invaluable for City.
After months of doubting their credentials, even the most bitter critics have accepted that Manchester City can no longer be viewed as pretenders; after managing to stay atop the Premier League table all along this season, they are contenders, after all.
While the likes of Kun Aguero, David Silva, Micah Richards, and Joe Hart are certainly great to have when aiming to dethrone Manchester United, it is often overlooked how this group went from having a ton of potential to leading the charge for a domestic title.
The answer, quite simply, is the presence of Mancini on the touchline. Not many can stand up to Sir Alex Ferguson and deliver repeatedly the way Mancini has.
From knocking United out of the FA Cup at Wembley last year to destroying them 6-1 at Old Trafford earlier this season, Mancini has demonstrated exactly why his leadership brand is one of a kind.
Remember those days when his Internazionale side seemed unstoppable in Italy for a few years at a stretch? To be precise, he led Inter to three Serie A titles, four Coppa Italia triumphs, and two SuperCoppa wins within half a decade before bringing the FA Cup to City at the end of just his second season in England.
Despite such a proven track record behind him, criticism has been heaped at the manager throughout this season. Disgruntled striker Carlos Tevez was perhaps the first to question Mancini’s man-management skills before the Italian got involved in trading jabs with the likes of Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis.
Rummenigge and De Laurentiis, as we can recall, were aggressively mocking City for their failure to progress in the UEFA Champions League.
And then there was that completely illogical and insensitive comment from Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who unnecessarily ventured into forbidden territory to undermine City’s achievements this season.
As a Gooner who has always taken pride in Arsenal’s classy conduct, I was shocked to see Gazidis tell the media that the league’s best team is jealous of a struggling Gunners side. The reason? Champions League!
At that point three-and-a-half weeks ago, Gazidis somehow felt that being in the Round of 16 and the FA Cup placed Arsenal in a much more favorable position than City, who barely missed out on the Champions League’s knock-out stages and last season, actually won the FA Cup – a feat that the Gunners have not accomplished in nearly seven years.
Fast forward to today, the Gunners have pretty much crashed out of Europe with a 4-0 humiliation in Milan and another 2-0 FA Cup disappointment away to Sunderland.
As far as the Premier League is concerned, City are miles ahead of the North Londoners. In fact, the trash talking in Munich and Naples does not seem any more appropriate either, what with both those sides struggling in their domestic leagues.
Another man associated with Arsenal – former goalkeeper Jens Lehmann – also publicly celebrated City’s rare setbacks throughout this season, somehow managing to accuse Mancini’s men of playing boring football.
As a side note, the infamous ‘boring’ label continues to be pasted on Mancini and City from several different directions, even though the club’s league-leading 64 goals and a staggering goal-differential of 45 makes those claims sound even more stupid than Lehmann’s decision to urinate behind the goal during a Bundesliga match in 2009.
Mancini has chosen not to track down his detractors and verbally respond to any of their hatred. He probably knows too well that actions speak much louder than words.
The season moves so fast that we often forget to reflect on the reality of the moment. Being delusional of Manchester City’s progress and accusing Mancini of resting on the laurels of a tremendously gifted squad is a stance everyone is entitled to, but let’s not forget that taking that stance involves quite a bit of oversight.
In this moment, Manchester City are excelling in terms of achieving their goals (no pun intended). They may be out of both the domestic cup competitions, as well as the Champions League, but they remain on course for a famous title win, which could be made all the more sweeter if garnished with Europa League glory.
And Mancini is fully aware that staying focused for the next three months is poised to result in the kind of success that would silence the haters, at least until the next season. Thus, the experienced gaffer is busy telling his players that all of their remaining fixtures must, indeed, be treated as Champions League finals.
“It is impossible to be complacent. Every game is like a Champions League final and for this reason, we need good concentration,” the manager asserted as he urged his side to respect the significance of every single match that is pending on their fixture list.
That sums it all up. Roberto Mancini is not only immensely experienced and tactically astute, but also highly focused and extremely respectful. For all his success – as well as his position in charge of England’s most in-form club – it is only expected that the man will be subject to hatred.
But one thing is clear: no matter how much hatred is targeted towards him, he seems to keep rising above it. For that, he must be applauded!