Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini out of excuses for European failures
City's troubles in the Champions League will be little surprise to fans at Italian's former club, Inter
Thursday 08 November 2012
It was a night for concession speeches but, although both Mitt Romney and Yaya Touré invoked God, only the former Governor of Massachusetts actually admitted he was beaten.
Needing Manchester City to overcome Real Madrid and then Borussia Dortmund merely to have a chance of making the knockout stages of the Champions League, Touré remarked in the wake of the frenetic 2-2 draw with Ajax that has all but doomed his team: "We have to believe in God and I swear that maybe we can still go through. When you draw or lose, it is always difficult and, when you see the statistics, you can think we were unlucky. You have to have God with you."
God has not been with Roberto Mancini in the Champions League. A man who has won four league titles and a domestic cup with every club he has managed has never made it past a quarter-final in the European Cup.
This is a manager who in Manchester and Milan has twice taken the title by having to win on the final day of the season. On both occasions – with Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming on for Internazionale against Parma and Edin Dzeko against Queen's Park Rangers – it has been his tactical changes that secured the prize.
It is an imbalance that only Kenny Dalglish, who won four championships but never came remotely close to any European success, would recognise. And, at Liverpool, Dalglish laboured under the Heysel ban.
It will not help Mancini's mood that his fate will be decided by a Real Madrid side managed by Jose Mourinho, who at Inter did what Mancini failed to do and won the club's first European Cup since 1965.
Mancini has argued that City are not ready for the competition on the grounds that it is difficult to bring in big-name footballers with large egos and mould them into an effective unit. It took Mourinho two years, less time than Mancini has been in Manchester, to win the European Cup for Inter. And it is hard to imagine men less modest about their own abilities than Samuel Eto'o and Wesley Sneijder.
This was something Mancini never remotely came close to at Inter and shows no sign of doing in Manchester. Sometimes at San Siro he was undermined by individual indiscipline. His main striker, Adriano, was overweight and on the bottle. Indiscipline extended to the pitch. The following season, 2007-08, Inter faced Liverpool, had a man sent off in each leg, and Mancini's decision to employ Patrick Vieira as a defensive midfielder was ruthlessly exploited by Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt.
What undermined City has been a similar defensive frailty, emphasised by the fact that before kick-off on Tuesday no goalkeeper in this season's Champions League had had more shots aimed at him than Joe Hart. When Javi Garcia, who performed much the same role as Vieira did at Anfield, was taken off, a sigh of relief went round Eastlands.
You could argue Inter never really recovered from their first and best campaign under Mancini, which saw them qualify unbeaten from their group only to meet their neighbours in two literally incendiary matches at San Siro in April 2005. The second, Inter's "home" game, was abandoned with smoke pouring from the pitch as flares hailed down from the stands. One struck the Milan keeper, Dida. The game was abandoned, Inter were deemed to have lost 3-0 and ordered to play their next four fixtures in an empty arena.
Perhaps Mancini would argue that this was simply misfortune, of the kind that last season saw City become only the fifth club in the history of the Champions League to fail to qualify from their group with 10 points.
However there are other echoes that will not go away. Mancini has often picked disastrous times to fall out with his players. Last year in Munich it was Carlos Tevez. In 2006 during a 2-2 draw at Ajax, Mancini had to be separated from Marco Materazzi when the defender stalked down the tunnel after it was clear he would not be coming on as a substitute. His dressing rooms are sometimes cold places.
Ibrahimovic, the man who won the Scudetto for Mancini, was promptly sold by Mourinho but when asked about the Special One, said: "I could go out and kill for Mourinho, that's the motivation he gave me." Whether anyone would kill for Mancini is a question that has yet to be answered.
... but Mancini dodges ban for pitch rant at referee
Roberto Mancini will be able to oversee the remainder of Manchester City's Champions League group matches at close quarters after escaping disciplinary action for confronting a referee post-match.
It was thought the City manager would incur a touchline ban for his reaction after his side were held to a 2-2 draw by Ajax at the Etihad Stadium. Mancini went on to the pitch to argue with referee Peter Rasmussen after City had an 88th-minute Sergio Aguero goal disallowed and Mario Balotelli was denied a penalty in injury time.
But Uefa, announcing that no action would be taken over the incident after the final whistle, said: "Nothing was reported, neither by the delegate nor by the referee."
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