All eyes on Mancini after Cup defeats turn up heat
It's only 10 days since Roberto Mancini described so presciently why the next five months would grant Manchester United the easier ride. "They have won trophies for many years so they are quiet," he said. "They understand that they can play without pressure. For us it's different."
Even he didn't foresee the events of a mere week demonstrating his point, though Manchester City's FA and Carling Cup defeats in that time have undoubtedly transferred all the sound and fury across town. City had not lost two successive home games since February 2008 before United and Liverpool departed as conquistadors and now a fixture which might have seemed like a release mechanism – at Wigan Athletic tomorrow night – brings a pressure to demonstrate that those results do not belong to a more significant malaise.
When the Italian's assistant, David Platt, says he expects the world see a different Mancini from tomorrow night, he is not expecting a change in demeanour. He means that the cameras will hunt out signs of stress. "There will be more views of him on the bench during a game," Platt said. "People will look at him and be able to comment on a visual of him on the bench, depending how the result is going."
If those lenses discern negative emotion then the English game will finally see the real Mancini. "He gets angry," Platt explained. "I've seen him get angry when we're winning 3-0 at a misplaced pass, the fact somebody has a shot when there is somebody in a better position. He will put it away. The speed at which he puts things away is for the benefit of the next game. But the perception [of Mancini] will change from now."
How much of the pressure City's superficially serene manager can take is one of the most intriguing unknowns at the top of the English club game. Remember, he quit the Internazionale job in the Anfield press room, after a defeat in 2008 – albeit with boardroom machinations whirring in the background. Platt insists the idea of Mancini relinquishing this challenge is unthinkable. "His idea is not to win. It is to continue to win year-on-year, year-on-year. I know for a fact one of the things that floats his boat is the ability to come and change a club from not winning to winning – not just once but to have a behaviour of winning. He was involved very deeply with Sampdoria [for 15 years] and he had suitors left, right and centre to go to bigger clubs – the Inters, Juventuses etc, when he was playing. But he enjoyed the factof building something; of changing behaviour, changing the pattern. I don't think he's a typical Italian manager where people coach two years here, two years there. He didn't leave Inter. They got rid of him."
It is United's mental aspect which, Mancini also insisted a week ago, keeps them "two years" ahead of City. Now – with David Silva restored to the ranks at Wigan – comes the time to reveal that he can match them psychologically, even if his side cannot yet. "I've known him since he was 26, 27," Platt said. "I don't look at it and think to myself that this is somebody who will lose his head at all. Unfortunately we can't do anything about [events]. If we think we can stop what gets written year on year about title runs-ins we're sadly mistaken.So we might as well accept it's going to happen and focus on the games and continue to do what we've already done. That's what he will do."
Wigan Athletic v Manchester City is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm
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