Pellegrini, Manchester City and the benefit of a calm hand on the tiller

There’s an old Chinese curse along the lines of:

“May you live in interesting times.”

The point being that although there may be plenty of fireworks and noise to distract and attract during times of excitement, the best road map to success is through a calm and measured approach. It’s a tenet that Manchester City fans may come to appreciate rather quickly this season.

Football fans will always have a yearning for the exciting and brash ‘Mourinho-esque’ type of manager; the man who can arrive at a club with a big agenda and an ego to suit. There’ll be plenty of high-profile quotes and sound-bites, with a wealth of style, but sometimes questionable amounts of substance.

Often less appealing to the fan is the manager that offers the calm assurance of having ‘been there, done that’ without the carnival, and attendant bells and whistles that can accompany often ephemeral success. It’s like the old saying that ‘only people that can’t fight have to wear a big hat.’ I’m talking here of managers the like of Carlo Ancelotti, newly ensconced in the Bernabeu hot seat, and proving the perfect antidote to ‘Tornado Jose,’ who swept through the club depositing trophies and trouble in relatively equal measure.


Now, neither Jose Mourinho nor Ancelotti represent the extreme incarnations of the types of manager that I’m describing. Both have CVs to back up their style, with an abundance of trophies to boot, but you probably get my drift.

When Roberto Mancini’s seemingly increasingly fractious reign at Eastlands was terminated, the club hierarchy was faced with a choice of the type of manager they were looking for. The Italian had been the most successful manager at the club in recent history, but in fairness, that wasn’t saying an awful lot.

A couple of FA Cup trophies and a Premier League title may have been the very stuff of City fans’ dreams half-a-dozen years ago. With the massive amounts of oil money now being poured on the club’s troubled waters however, this haul of silverware, coupled with a failure to escape the group stages in Europe’s most prestigious competition, was never going to be enough.

On top of this, adding in the fleetingly sublime, often frustrating, always newsworthy Mario Balotelli saga, plus some eccentric transfer purchases meant that Mancini was not marked down for survival. The experience may also have persuaded the club’s owners to lean a little towards a more ‘Ancelotti-type’ of manager when replacing him. Manuel Pellegrini fits the profile like a glove.

The urbane Chilean has arrived at the club and quickly established a reign of calm assurance. His press conferences have not been filled with extravagant promises or witty ripostes to make the assembled scribblers take him to their hearts. The press response however, has been no less positive for all that. Always correct, consistently polite and answering the questions without equivocation, it’s a business-like approach.

This is the type of man you would consider to manage your business, even if it wasn’t football. He’s a man with a plan. He’s here to do a job, and knows how to do it. If this is the impression that Pellegrini has had on the press and non-City fans such as myself, little wonder that the club’s players appear inspired by the new man at the helm.

Monday night’s performance against an admittedly limited Newcastle United portends good things for the new manager. An example would be the apparently revitalized Edin Dzeko. A persistent substitute under Mancini, often looking uninspired and out of form, he led the line with vim and vigour.

The Man of the Match accolade, despite him missing out on scoring, was no injustice. Pellegrini’s simple act of selecting the Bosnian ahead of the expensive Spanish import Alvaro Negredo, was both the show of faith to inspire Dzeko, and a declaration that form, not fee, will decide his team selection.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season progresses, but given the nascent impression of Pellegrini since he arrived in England, anyone finishing above Manchester City come next May – if that difficult task can be achieved – will not be far short of winning the title.

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