Analysis: Jose Mourinho mind games will not work on Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini – this is one tough cookie
A Different League: After a derby defeat to Boca Juniors, armed police had to shuffle him out of a side exit to protect him from the mob
Thursday 16 January 2014
Old-timer Manuel Pellegrini's skin is thicker than Yaya Touré's pay packet so it was no surprise that he made as little as he did about being abused by the Newcastle manager, Alan Pardew, at the weekend.
The word among some of his Premier League counterparts is that Manchester City's manager is not winning any popularity contests. If Sir Alex Ferguson was still in charge at United, we would probably have heard by now about how the City man never stops for a glass of Chilean red after games.
Pellegrini is as cold to fellow managers as he is flat in front of cameras and microphones, but the iceman persona and apparent immunity to provocation can only bode well for City's title run-in. There will be no Kevin Keegan "I would love it" moment when Jose Mourinho starts to crank up the mind games.
The Chelsea manager has already started poking the cage with the suggestion that the title is City's to lose because of their "vastly superior" squad. He has claimed beating City to the title this year would be his "greatest achievement" at Stamford Bridge. The David and Goliath rhetoric will continue from here until May.
But Pellegrini learnt how to bat away Mourinho curve balls in La Liga and before that honed his steely exterior in South America. Had there been extended verbals between himself and Pardew on Sunday, he could easily have told him: "You don't bother me, pal, I've had a police escort out of a Superclasico."
When he and his current assistant Ruben Cousillas took over at River Plate in 2002, he was Mr Unpopular from the start. He had replaced a club legend in Ramon Diaz and supporters had wanted another old favourite, the 1978 World Cup-winning captain Daniel Passarella, to take over.
Pellegrini did himself no favours by announcing his long-term aim was to coach the Chile national side, but he rode out the storm and delivered the title. The police escort came in the second season when things turned sour. After a defeat to bitter rivals Boca Juniors at River's El Monumental stadium, armed police had to shuffle him out of a side exit to protect him from the mob.
When he arrived in England at the start of the season, some suggested Pellegrini would not handle the pressure as he had "won nothing" – harshly discounting two Argentine championships. As a centre-back at Universidad de Chile, his critics referred to him as "El Gomero" – "the gum tree"– a phrase used in Chile to describe someone as "ornamental but not overly useful". That may have been the last time he was properly offended.
As for the "old" part of Pardew's insult, in the current managerial climate that could easily be taken as a compliment: the only coach senior to Pellegrini in the Premier League is 64-year-old Arsène Wenger and he happens to be the only manager higher placed than him in the table. Both men are aiming to the lift the trophy won last year by a 72-year-old; international football's current European and World Champion is 63-year-old Vicente Del Bosque; and last season's Champions League was won by 68-year-old Jupp Heynckes.
Old is gold at the moment, and for the title run-in cold will be gold too if it means being detached and aloof at the top of the table come the end of the season.
Was Peter Crouch Pep's prototype for Lewandowski?
Pep Guardiola and Peter Crouch might not be obvious footballing soul mates but there has always been more to both men than meets the eye.
Crouch was never just a big target man and Guardiola is proving at Bayern Munich he can survive without a "false nine" and a team full of tiki-taka midfielders.
The signing of Robert Lewandowski has had some Barcelona supporters scratching their heads – what does Guardiola want with an orthodox centre-forward? However, others remember him not only signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2009 but also waxing lyrical over a certain 6ft 7in target man when he wrote columns for El Pais during the 2006 World Cup.
Archives reveal Guardiola stating: "No one should underestimate Crouch. He can play with his head and with his feet. He links with his team-mates. He knows he is playing with 10 others and he offers continuity to the team's play. Every time he receives the ball we can start to count: 'One, two, three, four…' and he still has it – that is something that seems so simple but very few strikers know how to do; he gives Terry and Ferdinand time to bring the whole team forward. To have strikers that don't associate with team-mates and think their game is different to the one everyone else is playing, is to have a very stretched-out team. England don't have that; England have Crouch."
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