Roberto Mancini's Top 5 Decisions so Far at Manchester City
From being spectacularly off form and out of the title race to being Premier League winners in the space of a few weeks, Mancini has now clinched two major pieces of domestic silverware in two consecutive seasons.
Evidently, City’s wealthy owners have seen enough to extend Mancini’s stay at the Etihad Stadium.
Let’s look back at Roberto Mancini’s top five decisions in his two-and-a-half years so far with Manchester City.
Signing Yaya Toure and David Silva
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Having taken over the City reins in December 2009, Mancini had an immediate impact on his new club’s form, ending the Premier League season in fifth place and narrowly missing out on next season’s Champions League.
The summer of 2010 saw the arrival of two players that truly announced City as a world footballing force.
David Silva, fresh from winning the World Cup with Spain that summer, and Yaya Toure, a tour de force from fearsome Barcelona, arrived in quick succession in big-money transfers.
While their subsequent impacts at City have vindicated the massive outlay in transfer fees and wages spent, securing their signings without Champions League football that summer sent a message that City meant business.
Three-Man Backline Against Manchester United
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While Mancini ended the 2010-2011 season as FA Cup winners, we fast forward to the 2011-2012 season, where his tactical acumen was on full show in an FA Cup third-round tie against Manchester United.
Having lost Vincent Kompany to a controversial red card in the sixth minute, City went into the dressing room 0-3 down at halftime.
Mancini wasn’t to be deterred, though, and changed his tactical setup to a three-man defence, allowing the outside central defenders to push up and peg United back, completely turning the game around.
Goals from Aleksandr Kolarov and Sergio Aguero meant that City ultimately finished 2-3 losers, but this was a fine occasion in which Mancini showed that he offers quite a bit more than the stereotypical Italian “defence-first” approach.
Recalling Carlos Tevez to the First Team
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The premise, the context, the event and the outcome are all well known to followers of English football.
And we must recall first that Mancini’s original decision to leave Carlos Tevez out of his squad following their bust-up in a Champions League game against Bayern Munich showed a “my way or the highway” streak usually associated with the ruthless Sir Alex Ferguson across town.
But Mancini’s midseason decision to recall Tevez to his first team to support an off-form Edin Dzeko and tiring Sergio Aguero should rank as one of his finest decisions as City manager.
Because he understood that, in times of need, he had an unused world-class striker at his disposal who could be valuable to his pursuit of the title.
Which meant that, apologies and concessions willing, Tevez would be asked back to help the team.
And help out he did.
Sending Nigel de Jong on for Samir Nasri Against Newcastle
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Back to the drawing board, and now we examine a tactical switch that Mancini has almost patented in his time as City manager, but really came to the fore in the penultimate league game against Newcastle.
This, of course, goes back to one of his original masterstrokes in bringing in Yaya Toure, that one-man machine capable of playing anywhere through the middle.
And it is this versatility and fearsome box-to-box power that makes Toure such an important component of Mancini’s team.
Against a Newcastle side set up to contain City and to hit them on the counterattack, City had the effectiveness of Samir Nasri on the wing curtailed, and a second-half decision, defensive on the outlook, saw Nigel de Jong come on in place of Nasri.
What this did was allow de Jong to tuck into a more defensive midfield role, releasing Toure to move up the pitch and power through Newcastle’s midfield.
The result: 2-0 City, with both goals scored by that man Toure.
Playing End-of-Season Mind Games
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They say hindsight is 20-20, but hindsight in this case allows us to appreciate the man-management style that Mancini has adopted at City.
In the few weeks that saw City fall off the pace in the title race, Mancini insisted that United would finish the season as Premier League champions.
Even as the return of Tevez helped spark a revival in City’s fortunes, so Mancini maintained that his side were the underdogs and would not be able to catch their crosstown rivals.
City’s eventual triumph in the most dramatic of circumstances will live long in the memory, but when his players felt the pressure of a title race, Mancini deflected the attention with a series of mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Also check out: Why City Should Not Sign Van Persie.