Manuel Pellegrini, who will leave the club in the summer, is in danger of sullying his legacy. Only a strong finish to their Premier League campaign and further progression in the UEFA Champions League will save face.
But what are the chances of that happening? City have taken four points from a possible 18 in the league. They’ve lost five of their last 10 games in all competitions. Their total of 51 points from 30 games is pitiful for a side with their quality. The way they have thrown away the opportunity to win this Premier League, which has been left wide open, will surely rank as the biggest regret of Pellegrini’s career.
Joe Mercer won four major trophies between 1965 and 1971 and is the club’s most decorated manager. A league title this season would, in the eyes of many, have seen Pellegrini overtake Mercer, statistically at least. The fact he hasn’t managed it, despite having the strongest squad in a league that no one appears to want to win, is going to haunt the Chilean forever.
City need to conjure something miraculous to end this season on a high. They managed six straight wins at the end of the last campaign, which took them from the brink of dropping out of the top four to finishing comfortably in second. How they need a repeat now.
Paris Saint-Germain will be delighted. The French side, who already have the Ligue 1 title wrapped up, will face City over two legs in April for a place in the semi-final of the Champions League.
The intensity with which they moved the ball in the win over Chelsea in the last 16 suggests they will have too much for this limp, insipid City side.
The problems at the Etihad Stadium are varied. Martin Demichelis had a shocker on Sunday, a game like the one Gary Neville had for United against West Bromwich Albion back in 2011. The former England international had the good grace to retire after his performance, accepting it as evidence he was no longer able to compete at the highest level. The Argentinian, surely, will leave the club at the end of his contract in the summer.
David Silva’s struggle to create goes on, Joe Hart is likely to be out for a month with a calf injury after he overstretched to deal an underhit Demichelis backpass, and Wilfried Bony is inexplicably being preferred to Kelechi Iheanacho. It’s a messy situation that Pellegrini needs to sort quickly.
He has an international break to recover some of his injured players and try to find solutions to his side's problems. If he doesn’t, this already dreadful campaign could descend into total chaos.
Pellegrini insisted afterward he hasn’t lost the dressing room, claiming his players are fighting to finish as high up the table as they possibly can.
“I don’t think I lose any control,” he said. “The attitude of the team today reflects they are all involved in what we want to do.
“It is not the best way to finish the season—but, I repeat, I am happy with the attitude. All the players are focused [on] this season, and they want to finish as near to the top of the table as we can.”
City are woefully short on confidence, and quite how Pellegrini rectifies that is a mystery. But he needs a reaction.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League, which is now a real possibility, would be disastrous for a club with City's ambition. It would be the worst possible way to call time on his three-year spell in charge.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard.