And so the dead man walking was finally put out of his misery. As you know by now, Roberto Mancini has been sacked as manager of Manchester City, which has certainly given us something to talk about ahead of their trip to face relegated Reading on Tuesday.
Of course, we would have been talking about how bad City performed in what has proved to be his last ever game in charge, Saturday’s humiliating 1-0 defeat to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final at Wembley, but now we can cast our opinion on the Italian’s reign at the club, which, it must be stressed, ended the club’s 35-year wait for a trophy with the 2011 FA Cup and the 44-year wait for a top flight title the season after.
But anybody that has read my articles regularly this season (hi Mum) will know how I feel about Mancini, but I will reiterate it again: it is my strong opinion that he has grossly and inadmissibly underachieved with the squad he has built at great expense, and I for one think that the City board has made the correct decision.
For me, City have only played at a consistently high level for a short period of his three-and-a-half year reign, which came at the beginning of 2011/12, when his team – purposeful, inventive and highly determined – were playing teams off the pitch. The high point of that, the 6-1 victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford, will forever go down in club folklore, but they spent much of the remainder of the season treading water, and were it not for the most unlikely of collapses from United, would not have been crowned champions.
Even then, City were seconds away from the biggest choke of all time and were it not for Sergio Aguero’s last-kick heroics against Queens Park Rangers, Mancini would probably have been sacked last summer. Why that would have been the case was easy to see this season, where City have been woeful for large periods: their title defence has been dismal, their Champions League campaign even worse and if ever a match encapsulated what is wrong at the club, it was the defeat to Wigan.
Lethargic, uninspired, shapeless and, most unforgivably, lacking in commitment, it was a damning indictment of Mancini’s time at the club and I think that if, as reported, Manuel Pellegrini is to take over, the team will be better off next year.
But there are still two games of this campaign to forget, starting with Reading on Tuesday. Brian Kidd will take caretaker charge, and I think he can oversee a comfortable win for City at the Madejski. The Citizens are 57/100, with the draw at 31/10 and the home side a 17/4 chance, but I’ll play the 39/20 that City win to nil.
Let’s not forget, Reading have had a season to forget themselves. Relegation was a formality for some time, confirmed with four weeks of the season to go, and the managerial upheaval that has seen Brian McDermott replaced with Nigel Adkins appears to have had no positive effect whatsoever.
Reading have won just one of their six games under Adkins, and have failed to score in each of the three home games under his stewardship. In fact, The Royals have lost nine games without scoring this season, over a quarter of their games, and with City winning a record 13 games without conceding, it isn’t difficult to imagine an away win without a home goal.
I have a feeling that there are many players in that City squad that will be glad to see the back of Mancini, and free from his presence will be happy to put on a show, and at least attempt to make up for their woeful display on Saturday. So I see an easy win for City, and the 39/20 they win to nil looks fine to me.