Manchester City; title-less for 44 years, closer to non-league than the Premier League after going down to 12th in Division Two in 1998. 24 years later, with huge investment from owners, they have won the Barclay’s Premier League. A lot of focus will go to the team, and rightly so, it is they who play the matches. However, behind every great team is a greater manager. Roberto Mancini: veni, vidi, vici. He came, he saw, he conquered.
Roberto joined City in 2009 following the unsavoury departure of Mark Hughes. City’s owners publicly sacked Hughes and a number of his backroom staff to make way for the Italian. With wealthy owners more than obliged to invest, City looked a club destined for success.
Mancini took over midway through the season, with his objective to secure Champions League football. Although this turned out not to be the case as Manchester City were beaten by Spurs at home, forcing City to 5th. Although 5th place was City’s highest ever league finish, fans were aggrieved at Mancini’s inability to secure 4th place. Despite media speculation that Mancini would be sacked if he did not secure Champions League football, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak gave his support to Mancini.
Following a somewhat disappointing season, Mancini spent heavily in the Summer transfer window. Key signings included David Silva from Valencia for around £24m,Yaya Toure from Barcelona for a similar figure and Aleksandar Kolarov from Lazio for £16m.
The 2010/2011 season was a very successful one indeed for City. They moved into the top 4 early on in the season, and remained there ever since. Despite being eliminated from the Europa League by Dynamo Kyiv, City won their first major trophy. An FA Cup run which included a semi-final win over local rivals Manchester United at Wembley, followed by a victory over Stoke in the final. City’s FA Cup victory gave them confidence in the league as they eventually finished 3rd with a victory over Bolton on the final day, only goal difference separated City from achieving a second place finish over Chelsea.
Cue the 2011/2012 season, in which many people had City tipped for the title. City picked up Aguero, Nasri and Clichy in the transfer window and now had the players to win it, but did they have the team? A lot of media focus was on Balotelli and his antics upsetting the mood in the camp, could Mancini turn this squad of individuals into a team? Something his enemy Alex Ferguson could seem to do with his eyes closed.
City started the season incredibly well, making it clear from the off they were the team to beat. 28 points from a possible 30 showed United they were a force to be reckoned with. Then came the game, the infamous ‘6-1’ at Old Trafford. Mancini’s men inflicted United's worst loss since 1955 when his City side won 6–1 at Old Trafford. Many said that the title was over there and then due to the magnitude of the victory. However in true United style they would not lie down, constantly picking up points when City dropped. A string of very poor performances in the league left City 8 points adrift from the top after defeats to Swansea and Everton. Manchester City continued to battle and with United drawing at Everton and losing to Wigan, City were just 3 points off the top with the two sides to meet at the Etihad. A solitary goal from Vincent Kompany was enough to secure the points for City. Although the game didn’t live up to the hype for the neutral, Mancini and City fans alike were overjoyed at being top once again
Mancini has always been a typical Italian with his belief in building from the back and enjoying ‘negative’ victories. "I like 1–0 wins. When you don't concede a goal and you have players like Edin Džeko, Carlos Tévez or David Silva, you win 90%. I prefer we are boring for two to three matches and we win 1–0. If you watch teams that won titles, they conceded very few goals."
Mancini’s men had to win at St James Park and secure victory over QPR at the Etihad to land their first title in 44 years. A somewhat comfortable 2-0 victory at St James, in which Newcastle offered very little, meant that what seemed to be an easy game with QPR. Everything was going to plan at half time, with City leading by a Zabaleta goal which Paddy Kenny probably should have kept out. It all started to go a bit pear shaped when a poor header back to goal Hart put Cisse through, who finished comfortably. At 1-1 you still felt City would grab another, especially when Joey Barton was dismissed for an elbow on Carlos Tevez. In typical ‘toddler’ style Barton followed up with a knee and then an attempted headbutt on Kompany. WWE anyone? City were still looking comfortable, constantly probing for a vital second and dictating the play. However a break away from Arman Traore led to a strong header into the turf from Jamie Mackie, which loops over a hapless Joe Hart. Things starting getting nervy. With United winning at Sunderland, only 3 points would be enough for City. As the minutes ticked by, many Mancunions up in the North East may have been planning a 20th Title party. That was until the introduction of Edin Dzeko led to him finally converting a corner for City with 3 minutes of injury time left. City knew they had 3 minutes to win the title. When a scramble on the edge on the QPR box led to the ball ending at Aguero’s feet there was only one outcome. Aguero finished one of the most dramatic Premier League endings ever, leaving everyone connected to Manchester City ecstatic.
Roberto Mancini, bringing title glory back to Eastlands after 44 years, veni, vidi, vici.