Mancini begins overhaul of Man City
With plenty of money at his disposal, Manchester City’s new manager
Roberto Mancini now needs time to turn the perennial Premier League
underachievers into title contenders.
Mancini takes over from Mark Hughes, who was fired Saturday
despite City being sixth in the Premier League standings, the
target owner Sheikh Mansour had set before the season.
Eighteen months earlier, Sven-Goran Eriksson was dumped by
then owner Thaksin Shinawatra despite delivering the top-10 finish
that had been requested of him.
Patience has long been in short supply at the underachieving
club which lives in the shadow of powerful neighbor Manchester
While Alex Ferguson has lifted 25 major trophies in 23 years
at United, City has had 14 different permanent managers – including
Mancini – without winning anything in the same period.
“Comedy has always been at the heart of what this club is all
about,” Manchester City chief executive Garry Cook said last month.
The former Nike executive was referring to a billboard poster
taunting United about Carlos Tevez’s summer defection, but it could
apply to City’s decision-making in recent years.
Hughes claims that Mancini’s appointment had been decided
long before Saturday’s announcement, despite just two league losses
this season – fewer than any top flight club.
Hughes has given Mancini an immediate route to glory by
setting up a League Cup semifinal clash with United in January. But
that competition, which delivered City’s last major title in 1976,
is low on the priority list.
When Mancini is formally unveiled at City’s stadium later
Monday, Cook is likely to be pressed on whether Champions League
qualification – by finishing in the top four – is now Sheikh
Mansour’s primary target for this season as a return for his
Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho warned Mancini that the
Premier League is very different from Serie A.
“It will be a great and special experience for him to test
himself in a very different reality to Italian football,” said
Inter Milan coach Mourinho, who won two league titles with Chelsea.
“The Premier League is completely different to what he has known so
far. Mancini is a good coach and has an owner who spends a lot of
Since buying City in September 2008, its Abu Dhabi owner has
splurged more than $330 million on talent. As Mancini presided over
training in the Manchester snow Monday, he will have been figuring
out which areas of the squad need strengthening in the January
Cash shouldn’t be a problem. Finding the players might be for
the Italian manager.
As Hughes himself pointed out three days before being fired,
the frailties are primarily in central defense.
Joleon Lescott, whom Hughes relentlessly pursued from
Everton, is out for two months because of knee surgery, while Ivory
Coast international Kolo Toure will miss most of next month due to
the African Cup of Nations. Selling long-serving captain Richard
Dunne to Aston Villa in August now looks to have been a major
miscalculation, especially with the Birmingham side sitting fourth
in the standings – two places above City.
While Robinho started Sheikh Mansour’s spending spree –
beating Chelsea to his signature as clear a statement of intent –
the Brazil forward has failed to live-up to his price tag – he was
signed from Madrid last year for a British record transfer fee of
32.5 million pounds (then $51 million).
After spending most of this season out injured, he has made
little impact on his return.
Mancini will have to quickly reunite a group of players
hastily assembled by Hughes and stunned by his departure. His
experience at Inter Milan will certainly help.
Mancini’s English is limited, and he will be assisted at the
club by Brian Kidd, the former City and United player who served
under Hughes in a technical development role.
What Mancini may need is time.
“You can’t buy trophies in one season,” said Richard Bevan,
chief executive of the League Managers’ Association. “If they
(foreign owners) feel that, then we’ll continue with the sackings
… you need to embrace the city, the supporters, not just the