FA Cup Final: Has Roberto Mancini done enough to keep his job at Manchester City?

Manager knows second place in the league and a Cup win will guarantee nothing

To all the men who preceded him as manager of Manchester City, the question would have seemed absurd. Would winning the FA Cup and finishing second in the Premier League be enough to keep Roberto Mancini his job?

In 1969 and 1981, the last FA Cup finals that featured Manchester City before their takeover by Abu Dhabi, they finished 12th and 13th in the league and nobody at Maine Road asked Joe Mercer or John Bond if bringing the old trophy back would be "enough". Mancini, however, knows he will be judged differently.

"At Inter, I won seven trophies in four years and they still sacked me," he said. "This is football and I know football well enough to be able to understand this situation." He said it with a smile but Mancini knows that what fatally undermined him at Internazionale, a failure to make an impression on the Champions League, is what might damn him at City.

However, when it comes to domestic cups, Mancini has enjoyed almost unbroken success. He was 20 when he won his first Coppa Italia in a Sampdoria side that featured Graeme Souness, and he scored a penalty in the second leg against Milan.

As a player and a manager he would win the Coppa Italia a further nine times. In 2008, having secured the Serie A title with a dramatic win at Parma and then been denied the double by Roma in the cup final, he was relieved of his duties at San Siro.

Should Wigan Athletic win, it will be the biggest upset in an FA Cup final since 1973 when Bob Stokoe, wearing a strange combination of mac, trilby and a red tracksuit, ran on to the pitch to celebrate Sunderland's extraordinary victory over the great machine Don Revie had constructed at Leeds United.

Asked if he could think of a more uneven final he had been involved in, Mancini settled on the 1994 Coppa Italia that saw his Sampdoria side take on Ancona, who were mid-table in Serie B. It was played over two legs, which rather reduced the chances of an upset. Sampdoria won 6-1.

Given the dreadful, deflating nature of Wigan's defeat by Swansea City that pushed them to the very edge of relegation, and Roberto Martinez's chronic lack of central defenders, there are some who might imagine a similar scoreline at Wembley this evening.

The FA Cup is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the "Matthews Final". Since then the Cup has been won three times by clubs outside the top flight but only twice by teams that have struggled against relegation – Everton in 1995 and Ipswich in 1978. No relegated club has ever won it.

Nevertheless, had Martinez's side won at the Etihad Stadium last month, as they should have done, Wigan might travel to Wembley in better spirits. "Usually, when we play Wigan, they play to win," said Mancini.

"They have always played well against us and for this reason I think they will be dangerous. They are not a team that relies on counter-attack. That is the difference between them and other, similar teams. If we want to beat Wigan, I repeat, we have to play very, very well.

"I like Roberto [Martinez] because he likes good football and because his players are fighting relegation, this should be the best moment of their lives. Roberto probably deserves a bigger club, with all the respect we have for Wigan. His chairman, Dave Whelan, is a fantastic man. I support Wigan in their fight against relegation – and Sunderland because Paolo Di Canio is there. I think Martinez deserves to manage a top team."

The FA Cup is full of ritual and superstition. When Portsmouth won the trophy five years ago, Harry Redknapp wore the same clothes for every round, although you like to think his wife Sandra washed them in between.

"I am Italian and Italian people have a lot of superstitions," Mancini said. Among them are wearing the club scarf around his neck on the touchline, dabbing spilt wine behind his ears and an abhorrence of the colour purple, which in Italy signifies mourning.

"The last thing I say to the players will be the last thing I tell them before every game: 'Try to play football always. Don't lose your head for nothing. If you play football, you can always score in the last second.'"

He might need the charms to ward off the spectre of the Malaga manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who recently lunched with Manchester City's director of football, Txiki Begiristain.

Pellegrini, who has won nothing much since arriving in Spain in 2004, will be a hard sell and Mancini deserves his chance to become the first Manchester City manager since Jimmy Frizzell not to have to compete against Sir Alex Ferguson. Even Frizzell had only one Fergie-free month before the great man's arrival from the north began the long Manchester eclipse of City.

Mancini revealed he had written Ferguson a letter, which is rather classier than sending him a text. "But I don't think him going will make my job easier," he said. "At a big club like United you can change the manager and carry on. Sir Alex may have built this team but it is still a big club with a big history."

Asked for a memory of Ferguson, Mancini rather cheekily nominated City's 6-1 rout of United at Old Trafford in October 2011. "I don't think there could be another match like this," he said. "Six-one against United is a good memory for us. Three years ago, when I first played them, they were much better than us."

However, as Mancini acknowledged with a grin, his record against David Moyes is far worse than his record against Ferguson. Of their eight games, Moyes has won six and Mancini one.

"Yes, Everton, our problem is always Everton," he laughed. "As for David Moyes, I don't know. We will see next year."

Down but not out: Struggling finalists

* There have been five previous occasions where FA Cup finalists have been relegated in the same season:

1926: Manchester City City lost to Bolton at Wembley before being relegated a week later.

1969: Leicester City Dropped into the second tier weeks after losing 1-0 to Manchester City.

1983: Brighton & Hove Albion Lost to Manchester United in a replay, having been demoted.

1997: Middlesbrough Bryan Robson’s side went down and then lost 2-0 to Chelsea.

2010: Portsmouth Avram Grant’s team had relegation confirmed a month before a 1-0 Wembley defeat against Chelsea.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines