Manuel Pellegrini Already an Underdog to Live Through the 9 Lives He Has Left

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Manuel Pellegrini Already an Underdog to Live Through the 9 Lives He Has Left
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Pellegrini had a great vantage point to watch his team get run off the pitch by Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

If you take Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano at his word, City boss Manuel Pellegrini has nine lives left.

"Five trophies in the next five years" was the expectation Soriano set when he introduced Pellegrini as City's manager.

At the time, Soriano specified that the trophies he was talking about were the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup.

Soriano was either lying about that last one or has since changed his mind.

If the FA Cup meant anything to Soriano or to City as a club, City would not have rested the defensive spine of their side (Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho) in the recent FA Cup quarter-final against Wigan Athletic.

And they would not in the same match have also hauled off Yaya Toure and Jesus Navas inside of an hour.

City's XI against Wigan and the substitutions they made did not merely suggest how City valued the slim chance of saving their Champions League blushes against Barcelona a few days later more than the chance to win a lesser domestic prize—they announced it.

So we can stop pretending that winning an FA Cup will do anything to burnish Pellegrini's credentials in the eyes of his employers.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Unlike the man over his right shoulder, Soriano does not look much like a man who was kidding when he set Pellegrini's trophy mandate.

That leaves the Premier League and the Champions League as the only trophies Pellegrini can win to meet Soriano's mandate.

This year's run at the Champions League is over. City's current Premier League run may not be on life support, but their vital signs are in flux, and Chelsea are getting ready to administer last rites.

In gamer terms, each Champions League and Premier League title pursuit represents one life for Pellegrini. In five years he gets one of each. This year, one of those lives is gone and another is fading fast.

The Chilean still has nine lives left. If City fail to win the League, though, Pellegrini would then presumably need to win five of those exalted prizes in just four years.

That is, if Pellegrini is guaranteed four more years. In truth, Pellegrini is assured of nearly nothing.

Last season, City washed out of the Capital One Cup early, did not qualify for the knockout stage in the Champions League, lost the FA Cup in the final and finished second in the Premier League.

That end product convinced Soriano and City to sack Roberto Mancini, who had delivered City's only Premier League trophy to the Etihad one short year prior.

A reasonable estimation of what City's year-end summary might look like in May would be the Capital One Cup win, the Champions League pratfall against Barcelona, the FA Cup embarrassment and another runner-up finish in the league.

If City wanted that sort of relative mediocrity from their manager, they did not much need to fire Mancini.

Pellegrini will presumably get one or two more summer transfer windows to mold the team in the manner that best suits his style.

Will Pellegrini survive five years at City?

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To his credit, last summer's signings have worked out terrifically well, and Pellegrini has also wrung previously unseen value from Mancini doghouse residents like Samir Nasri and Dzeko.

Even with all that going right, though, City are no further along in terms of accomplishment this year than they were last year. Unless you count the Capital One Cup, which Soriano explicitly does not. What will happen if this summer's transfer haul falls flat?

It is a shame to be having this conversation about Pellegrini so soon into his tenure at City.

But Soriano set this fire, and Pellegrini must get busy quickly spending his remaining lives putting it out.

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