City haunted by ghosts of Christmas past

Mancini struggles to build on a year in the job as January sales bring some hard decisions

In retrospect, 2010 was the year of the Italian manager. One, Carlo Ancelotti, took Chelsea to the Double. Another, Fabio Capello, oversaw England's most disastrous World Cup campaign since the first, half a century before. A third, Roberto Mancini, took over the wealthiest football club in the world.

Eastlands had the first sight of Mancini, with the flowing hair and the blue and white scarf, on Boxing Day 2009. Then he had seemed the beneficiary of another botched managerial sacking by another group of foreign owners who knew how to spend money but not how to treat their employees.

The Abu Dhabi United of Sheikh Mansour and Khaldoon Al Mubarak had not decided to wait and see if Mark Hughes would deliver Champions' League football; they fired him before he oversaw a 4-3 victory over Sunderland and replaced him with Mancini; an available name, who had seldom taken Internazionale near the business stages of the Champions' League and whose exposure to English football consisted of a few games with Leicester, where he learned about the English drinking culture first hand alongside Robbie Savage and assorted companions. Eastlands did not especially mourn the passing of Hughes but nor did they embrace Mancini. They would wait and see.

Before they faced Everton last Monday, Mancini had overseen 38 Premier League games, a full campaign, and seen Manchester City collect 70 points, which is what Tottenham required to secure the final Champions' League slot at City's expense. It is good, but not quite good enough.

"The League this year is very strange," he said. "To get through this we must believe in ourselves always. Our mentality will only change when we win a title and not before – whether that is the FA Cup, the Barclays Premier League or the Europa League. I think it is important that we start with one trophy – if we win two, that's OK – but the first one will be the most important."

Perhaps appropriately, Mancini meets the turn of the season at Newcastle, a club that could once match Manchester City when it came to pouring away money in the futile pursuit of silverware and has eclipsed them in terms of bizarre treatment of their employees. Despite the endless amateur psychology surrounding Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez's botched attempt to leave the club, Manchester City is by comparison a haven of stability.

He was asked how Internazionale would have dealt with Tevez's rebellion. The Inter of Jose Mourinho, who did not try to understand Balotelli's excesses, might have banished him to the furthest corner of the training ground, held him up to ridicule and at the very least stripped him of the captaincy. Mancini did none of these things.

"Problems with players are normal every day and at every club," he said. "We would deal with it the same way here as we would at Inter. Carlos has a contract and this is an important moment for the club. It was my decision to keep him as captain and when Carlos said he wanted to stay, then for me it was finished.

"Maybe," he said when asked if footballers had become too powerful – earlier, Mancini had suggested it might be better if Balotelli smiled a bit more and began comparing himself to Lionel Messi a little less. "It was important that we stopped this [the constant Tevez-related headlines]. The club must be very hard. Now we must learn to be a strong team and not get into situations that can be distracting."

The January transfer window will be as much an opportunity to deal with the past as to invest in a future that appears slightly more certain than when Mancini first tucked the blue and white scarf inside his beautifully tailored jacket. Wayne Bridge, Emmanuel Adebayor, Jo and Joleon Lescott (cost: £80m) would appear to command a limited time beneath a blue moon rising more slowly than they would like in Abu Dhabi.

Of the team that started his first match, a 2-0 win over Stoke, four have left the club, while Craig Bellamy, a 70th-minute substitute and often critical figure, has been dealt with in the same way as the man he replaced, Robinho. Both are on one-way loan deals to Cardiff and Sao Paulo respectively. This week Mancini had been obsessing about the defeat by Everton, the third he has suffered at the hands of David Moyes, and because it denied him the fleeting glamour of being No 1 at Christmas, the most painful of them all.

"Every game they play against us like a Champions' League final. I don't know why," Mancini said aloud. The anger over the way they were treated when Hughes decided to drag Lescott from Goodison maybe? "Probably," comes the reply. A year on and the ghosts have still not been driven from Eastlands.

From Mark to Mancini

Mark Hughes was sacked as Manchester City manager on 19 December 2009, despite the Blues beating Sunderland 4-3 at Eastlands. Even goals from Roque Santa (Cruz) couldn't save him from the sack.

Here's how the Premier League table stood after that City victory.

Position/Team/Games/Points

1. Chelsea 17/40

2. Manchester Utd 18/37

3. Arsenal 17/35

4. Aston Villa 18/35

5. Tottenham Hotspur 18/33

6. Manchester City 17/29

Roberto Mancini's first game in charge at City came a week later (Boxing Day 2009) – a year ago today – at home to Stoke. City won 2–0 with goals from Martin Petrov after 28 minutes and Carlos Tevez right on half-time.

City's team that day Shay Given, Kolo Touré (capt), Sylvinho (Micah Richards, 66), Pablo Zabaleta, Petrov, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry, Vincent Kompany, Stephen Ireland, Robinho (Craig Bellamy, 70), Tevez (Javier Garrido, 89). Substitutes not used Stuart Taylor (gk), Javan Vidal, Vladimir Weiss, Dedryck Boyata.

One year on, five of the same players lined up for City's last game – the 2-1 defeat to Everton at Eastlands on Monday night – Touré, Kompay, Zabaleta, Barry and Tevez.

Full team Joe Hart, Kolo Touré (sent off, 90), Kompany, Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Yaya Touré, James Milner (Adam Johnson, 45) ,Barry, David Silva, Tevez (capt), Mario Balotelli (Jo, 83). Substitutes not used Shaun Wright-Phillips, Patrick Vieira, Given, Richards, Jérôme Boateng

Mancini's overall record at City:

Games/Won/Drew/Lost/Win%

54/28/13/13/51.85

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
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

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments