The news emerged last night at 10:24pm that Roberto Mancini was being "relieved of his duties" by Manchester City. In blunt British football terms, this is traditionally known as the sack.
At around 12:04am this morning, the chirpy cockney tones of the former City and England forward Rodney Marsh could be discovered on radio discussing what the new manager-in-waiting Manuel Pellegrini will bring to the job.
With Malaga’s Chilean coach apparently poised to succeed Mancini, Marsh seemed a sound enough commentator on the topic having turned out for three years at Maine Road in the early 1970s.
But City as a subject seems to encourage a touch of farce these days.
Marsh’s muddled thoughts quickly descended into a ramble as shambolic as City's performance on Saturday in losing 1-0 to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final, a match that proved to be Mancini's last insipid offering as manager of the world's richest club. Here is how the conversation unravelled:
Radio bloke: “This man Pellegrini, who is coming in, who apparently has only coached Spanish speaking sides... Rodney, what do you know of him?”
Marsh: “I had a great phone call last night from a friend of mine that lives in Spain. And he said Pellegrini was one of the most progressive young coaches. He's not an old man at all..”
Radio bloke: “He's 60 isn't he?”
Marsh: “He's one of the most progressive young coaches in world football. He also coaches one of the greatest young talents, a boy called Isco who plays at Malaga. When Pellegrini goes, Isco is the kind of guy who will follow him to his next club. That is maybe something that Pellegrini has already talked about.."
Radio bloke: “He's not that young, though? He is 60?”
[He is actually 59.]
Marsh: “I mean his mind. He has a progressive young mind, as I see it. He has tried new systems. This year in the Champions League, he has tried three new systems and they just got knocked out in the semi-finals.”
And that was that. Malaga lost to Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals, but what difference is a round or two when lauding such promising talent as Pellegrini, aged 59 and nine months.
Having spent time on I’m a Celebrity and Celebrity Coach Trip, a frazzled Marsh is obviously a touch bonkers these days. A bit like Mancini, a coach seemingly destined for dismissal and the golden handshake after finding bedlam at every turn.
Unlike his players, here is a manager who worked hard for this moment. Here is a manager who cannot say he did not deserve this fate.
Mancini has been heading for choppy waters at the Etihad Stadium since he weirdly began making enemies within a dressing room that reeled in the Premier League trophy this time last year.
He had players at City who no longer wanted to play for him. This is reflected in the results.
How else can you explain City's astonishing transformation from Premier League champions a year ago to one that loses an FA Cup final to a side third-from-bottom and poised for relegation? There is no excuse for City's players falling into such a state of torpor. Even if they knew Mancini was going, they had a responsibility to produce for the supporters.
The defence of the title City won for the first time since 1968 has been similarly lamentable. Manchester United were looking out the bunting when City lost 3-1 at Southampton in early February as the lead hit double figures.
One may wonder why the club’s Abu Dhabi owners opted to sack Mancini now rather wait until the end of the season?
It was carried out because they did not want a repeat of the shenanigans that enveloped Mark Hughes before he was chopped in December 2009.
Hughes was manager for his final match against Sunderland while Mancini watched from the stands at Eastlands. The chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak was apparently on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Manchester to break the news to mother when the story was already public knowledge.
Such an episode was damaging to City's image and embarrassing for the owners. It was also humiliating for Hughes.
At least Mancini knew then the type of employers he was working for. There is no honour among thieves. Like Hughes, he has been dispatched with some swiftness.
City have been in talks with Pellegrini for some time. Certainly while Mancini was manager. Garry Cook was chief executive when Mancini was recruited, but he has fallen by the wayside during City's era as Abu Dhabi FC. Others will come and go at the whim of the owners. Like Mancini, they swallow it for heavy money.
The City hierarchy will defend their actions by claiming that change can never be done overnight. Not for a coach in demand like Pellegrini.
The club obviously did not want Mancini as a dead manager walking for the final two games of the season against Reading and Norwich.
City’s end of the season review was brought forward with the club confirming that Mancini was on his way out because he achieved none of the targets they had set him at the start of the season. Apart from qualifying for the Champions League, a competition that exposed further uneasiness this season.
For a second straight year under Mancini, the Champions League became a write-off as they finished bottom of a section containing Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax.
Having spent over ₤1 billion on recruitment - ₤285m of which has been unloaded on fresh faces during Mancini's tenure - and enhancing the club since 2008, the City owner Sheikh Mansour and his cohorts can rightly argue that they did not see any improvement under Mancini.
They have gone backwards this season. Compare and contrast Mancini to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
While the retiring Ferguson managed to inspire and motivate players to regain the Premier League having shed it on the last day last season, Mancini seems to have spent most of his time falling out with his mainstays.
“He is free to do his press conferences as he feels, and if he feels you are not up to it...” said the England goalkeeper Joe Hart about his manager in March.
Speaking of Samir Nasri in the same month, Mancini said: “I would like to give him a punch. Because a player like him should play like today always. Always. Every game."
Nasri was removed early in the second half of the FA Cup final after contributing nothing of note. In keeping with the general malaise.
Joleon Lescott has been strangely condemned to fourth choice centre-half at the club. He was not seen against Wigan at the weekend.
Under Pellegrini, there is every chance some spirit can be brought back to the dressing room that has sadly evaporated under Mancini. City are seeking a “holistic” approach that may help to soothe minds.
City remains a commodity bought to sell the image of Abu Dhabi as a viable business and tourist destination around the world. The club’s Abu Dhabi owners want to see their Emirate associated with positive sporting images. Of success and unity. They were not seeing their PR vision for Abu Dhabi realised under Mancini and his bickering.
Mancini has apparently been handed anywhere north of ₤7m for the rest of his five-year contract, with some placing the figure nearer ₤28m. The size of such a settlement means the City manager’s job is worth getting even if only to get sacked.
City fans will always remember the Italian fondly for winning the FA Cup two years ago and the league last year. They will not recall this season with such keenness.
Gone are the manager's bike rides to training, that chunky scarf, munching chocolates in the dugout and his affectionate tones towards ‘Carlos’ (the golfer Tevez) and ‘Mario’ (Balotelli), figures whose selfishness suggests City remains a soulless place because of the largesse.
But Mancini should have no regrets. He earned his sacking.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"People had said that I'd lost the dressing room but I know where it is, down the corridor on the left. What a load of rubbish. How many others teams have had wobbles? It's a joke." - Ian Holloway berates his critics after two Wilfred Zaha goals send his Crystal Palace side to Wembley for the Championship play-off final against Watford with a 2-0 win at Brighton.
Paris St Germain's Ligue 1 title celebrations were cut short on Monday after clashes between spectators and police in the west of the French capital. Read about the goings on here.
- Sports & Recreation
- Roberto Mancini
- Manuel Pellegrini
- Rodney Marsh