The Calvin Report: Roberto Mancini falls as global ambition is embarrassed
Manchester City manager becomes a disposable asset in a much larger game as Wigan supply the romantic images the old competition so desperately needed
Sunday 12 May 2013
For Roberto Mancini, taking the 107 steps to the Royal Box, where he endured the ritual of superficial sympathy and theatrical regret, must have felt like an ascent to the scaffold. He knew he was being depicted as fortune's hostage, and history's fool.
Though he maintained the pretence of defiance that he will remain Manchester City's manager next season, it was logical to assume the game was up as the rain cascaded down, and Wigan's fans gleefully celebrated a classic denial of football's accepted order.
With Manchester City prepared to ruthlessly recalibrate, losing the FA Cup final in such dramatic circumstances will inevitably accelerate his departure. Though the devotion of City fans to a doomed man was shrill and unyielding, the voice of the people will be ignored.
Memories are short, reputations are transitory. Protest is futile. What the City board were instructed to do with Manuel Pellegrini, Mancini's supposed successor, was heartfelt, and anatomically impossible, but irrelevant. The club are on the verge of implosion.
In the bleak, anaemic environment of the global strategists, it is inconceivable that City's ambitions should be threatened by the likes of Wigan, a club who live within their means and retain the homeliness which was once the hallmark of the English game. It was the unthinkable, presented in association with the undrinkable.
Wembley is about dreams, according to slogans which desperately required the sheen of such a dramatic denouement. The Cup's strange alchemy, diminished by corporate vandalism, reasserted itself. Wigan's valiant efforts, and the sense of astonishment they generated, provided the romantic images the old competition needed desperately.
Before Ben Watson rose to meet that fateful corner as the final entered added time, tradition had met modernity, with predictably dire results. "Abide With Me" was massacred. There were empty seats in the corporate sections. Mind the gap, football.
The temptation to seek much-needed signs of humanity was irresistible. Wigan's captain, Emmerson Boyce, cradled a mascot with parental care and concern. David Clarke, the remarkable captain of the British blind football team, accompanied the worthies for the introductory formalities.
Even before his fate was sealed Mancini was a forlorn, wistful figure, his hands plunged deep into his coat pockets. His team, a collection of disparate, occasionally desperate individuals, did him few favours. They deserved to lose for their indolence and their arrogance.
The FA will celebrate their own reprieve, but should not be allowed to escape censure for their collusion with their sponsors in the prostitution of their greatest prize. They defend themselves by pointing out the complexities of a crowded calendar without answering their disregard for the after-effects of such a late kick-off on the fans they purport to value.
They have a duty of care to those supporters. Who else would pay the mortgage? The programme cost £10, which is roughly what it costs to watch Bayern Munich, the putative European champions. They must acknowledge their error, and return to traditional values.
Watching City, it is impossible to forget the wealth which relaunched the club and created the need for progress which makes men like Mancini disposable assets. Wigan, in their ebullient chairman, Dave Whelan, are a triumph of hope over expectation. Mancini will feel alone this morning, but he fails to generate compassion because of his self-absorption.
His inability to define blame and his instinct to deflect it is an abiding weakness. There was something karmic about the reality that intruded on what for him should have been a day of comforting achievement.
City may purport to be better corporate citizens these days, but yesterday's indignities represented a payback of sorts. There was an exquisite irony in their being embarrassed by the brutalities of transition after a week in which their loftier neighbours, United, opted for commercially-sensitive continuity, through the seamless succession of Sir Alex Ferguson by David Moyes.
Optimists argue that City should maintain the status quo, to give stability a chance. Mancini spoke of having four years left on his contract, despite knowing it may as well be written in invisible ink. Someone of his excitable, ego-driven nature is hardly an ideal candidate for sustainable development.
City are a club of whispers and moans, a place of tension. Mancini's departure is unlikely to be mourned by senior figures in the dressing room. Footballers are notoriously sensitive to slights, but Mancini's handling of his bigger players has been harsh and one-dimensional.
The football world will keep turning, and its underpinning ironies will appear more unfair than ever. Wigan's reward for winning a pleasingly open game will be to lose players of quality and, most probably, Roberto Martinez, their bright, tactically adept manager.
James McCarthy looks a prototype Roy Keane, and Callum McManaman's evisceration of Gael Clichy down City's left flank will have piqued the interest of the watching Roy Hodgson, among others. The price of his potential is steep but worth paying, as he has proved himself on the biggest stage.
As for Mancini, he came out early for the second half and signed autographs which will have novelty value on eBay. They will be peddled as messages from a man in a condemned cell. At the end, he left the pitch with a solitary backwards glance.
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