On the one hand, it may seem like something of a harsh decision to sack Roberto Mancini. He was, after all, the man who ended Manchester City’s 35-year wait for a major trophy by winning the 2011 FA Cup, and he followed that up by clinching the club’s first top-flight title for 44 years in incredible fashion in 2012.
And there is no doubt that the City fans will forever cherish those moments and remember the Italian’s time at the club with the utmost affection.
But 2012/13 was an extremely poor season for Mancini, who was seemingly unable to do anything right in the year between Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner against Queens Park Rangers and the ending of his reign at the Etihad Stadium.
Off the pace in the Premier League and without a trophy to speak of, the writing was on the wall for Mancini even before reports emerged on Friday that Manuel Pellegrini was set to replace him.
Here are five reasons it all went wrong for Mancini at City, and why owner Sheikh Mansour and chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak were correct in giving the former Inter Milan manager the boot.
In truth, it all started to go pear-shaped for Mancini 12 months ago, and the seeds of his sacking were definitely sown during a dreadful summer transfer window.
If Manchester City bought well in the years preceding their title win (Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, David Silva and so on) then their recruitment policy in the last close season was a disaster.
Mancini consistently bemoaned the failure to sign Robin van Persie, who opted to join Manchester United and was instrumental in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side wresting back the Premier League title, but he need only look at the players he did sign for one reason why City were so far off the pace.
For various reasons, Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia and Maicon all failed to impress, with only Matija Nastasic making any kind of impression, and instead of strengthening over the summer, Mancini’s City got weaker.
Terrible Champions League campaign (again)
Mancini’s record in Europe’s premier club competition is woeful and this is certainly one of the factors to have gone against him given the club’s designs on a worldwide dynasty.
Twice in successive seasons City failed to get out of the group stages under the Italian, last year coming third behind Bayern Munich and Napoli, and this year finishing bottom of their section adrift of Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid and Ajax.
While City were unfortunate to be drawn in such difficult groups, the fact remains that their displays in Europe under Mancini were substandard: to not even win one game in this year’s competition is an embarrassing record for a team with such resources.
His record at Inter wasn’t much better – he failed to get past the quarter-finals at the San Siro – and he doesn’t look able to compete with the very best on Europe’s grandest stage.
At no point during Mancini’s three-and-a-half-year reign at the Etihad did the Manchester City camp seem like a particularly happy one, and his apparent failure to get to grips with the huge egos in the dressing room ultimately undermined his authority.
Right the way back to his treatment of Craig Bellamy upon taking over, Mancini seemed to be fighting fires and although the conduct of Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli was at times so poor any manager would have struggled to control them, Balotelli was indulged until his January transfer to Milan and both players’ actions seemed to be symbolic of a squad that always appeared disharmonious.
Mancini’s tendency to publicly criticise the board for failing to secure transfer targets and have a go at his players for their lack of effort and poor attitude was not suitable for a manager of a club with such exalted ambitions (Ferguson would very rarely do so, for example) and there is no doubt that he failed spectacularly to get the very best out of an outrageously talented and expensively assembled squad.
Ultimately, he paid the price for making City much less than the sum of their parts.
Under Mancini, City were seldom credited for their tactical acumen and if anything, the Italian’s tactics accelerated his downfall.
His lack of faith in wingers always meant that his City team played too narrow, with most of their attacks coming through the middle. It looked great when it came off, and of course with players like Silva in the team, it’s certainly possible.
But there were many occasions, especially away from home, where a different approach was needed. Mancini, though, was never able to successfully fathom a Plan B.
His fall-back option of playing 3-5-2 rarely looked like working, while his naivety in Europe was there for all to see.
Rotation is part of the modern game, but the Italian never seemed sure of his favoured combination at the top end of the pitch, and far too often City have looked worryingly formless and ad-hoc.
Defeat to Wigan in the FA Cup final
Mancini’s fate looks like it was already decided before Saturday’s humiliating defeat to Wigan Athletic at Wembley, but the 1-0 loss in the FA Cup final proved exactly why that was the case.
His opposite number Roberto Martinez works on a fraction of the budget, but Wigan out-thought, out-fought and deservedly beat a City team that was lethargic, shapeless and, quite unforgivably, disinterested.
If the match was meant to be an advert as to why Mancini should keep his job, it instead encapsulated all the reasons why he lost it, and having gone backwards alarmingly this season – City have eight fewer points and 31 fewer goals in the league – few can be truly surprised the Italian’s days at the club are at an end.