Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini will not watch Crystal Palace v Liverpool

Understated but shrewd City manager wants to focus only on his own side in the battle for the Premier League title

Manuel Pellegrini called for the DVD some time ago. In that lugubrious way of his, he feigns indifference to all the extraneous details of the next six days, insisting that he will not be watching events at Crystal Palace because "we are not depending on what Liverpool can do."

But even he cannot deny that curiosity has made him view the finale of 13 May 2012: the Joey Barton dismissal, City's mounting panic to make the extra man count, Edin Dzeko's equaliser and then Sergio Aguero, wheeling away in the sunshine, twirling a shirt around his head, after the winner, thus concluding the comeback against Queen's Park Rangers which clinched the title for City.

Pellegrini will not say what he thought of those events, of course. His refusal to embrace any question put to him is a contributory factor to the national indifference about City reclaiming the title. But we have to assume he has stored them away and told his players that they do away with that quintessential City habit of seizing disaster from the jaws of triumph. "City-itis" as former manager Joe Royle always called it.

We saw enough in the clunky, careless, potentially catastrophic nature of the performance at Goodison Park on Saturday evening to suggest that victories over Aston Villa and West Ham in the next six days, on which another title probably hangs, might bring more scares. "I think the supporters would say like me that we don't want to live through that again," Yaya Touré said late on Saturday, after his side had won 3-2 despite themselves.

 

Yet good, bad or indifferent, wins home and away against Everton – an accomplishment only City have managed this season – tell a story. Roberto Martinez took a long time to locate an answer to the question of which was the best side Everton have played this season – perhaps conjuring the memory of Chelsea's relatively meagre goal threat, Liverpool's annihilation of his team at Anfield, countered by his own side tearing up the neighbours' midfield at Goodison – and he was left only with City. Fearsome attack, powerful midfield, relatively strong defence, will power: no one else has held all those cards.

"I think they were very clinical and there must be something in [the fact that] over the two games, they are the only team that got six points off us," Martinez said. "I do like the way Manuel Pellegrini plays. They have a good structured team, good in possession and they are phenomenal up front. They are well balanced and probably the answer to that is they are the best team we have faced…"

City need a communicative manager more than they think they do. They are privately delighted about the way Pellegrini has cut dead the controversies of Roberto Mancini's era. But they overlook how Everton – who have given full rein to the raw, youthful self-belief of Ross Barkley, Seamus Coleman and John Stones – feel a lot more attractive than a City who have, bluntly, broken Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules to put themselves where they are today.

City's season has actually been one of great accomplishment, too, if Pellegrini would only allow a little light to shine on the fact. His side, like Chelsea's, has been in transition – fusing new attacking players and embracing a new style of play under a manager who, unlike Jose Mourinho, had never known the Premier League before.

In the rehabilitation of Saturday's matchwinner, Joe Hart, dropped for two painful months in mid-season, Pellegrini has shown Mancini how to do toughness. It is about a year since a doleful Hart, who abhorred Mancini like so many of his team-mates, explained how City adhered to the adage of needing at least eight players performing per game when defending that 2012 title. "It's hard for me to throw massive positives," the goalkeeper said, heart in his boots. Look at Hart now. Make no mistake: Pellegrini restores lost spirits.

He used his many available options shrewdly on Saturday, too. Aguero's departure, with a groin injury did not even trigger the deployment of a replacement striker. A midfielder, Fernandinho, arrived, allowing Touré to shuffle forward, threatening more and destroying Martinez's game plan.

"That affected the game more than you would think," said the Spaniard, whose bench contained two players with one minute's first-team football between them. "That was a bit unfortunate because everything that we prepared for was based on [facing two strikers]." Touré dismissed the notion that his 66th-minute withdrawal meant he was injured. "I'm OK," said City's indestructible one.

The race is not run yet. Michael Laudrup always talked of the La Liga culture of teams not trying in the season's closing matches when they are safe and Pellegrini accepted that Villa and West Ham will present something new. "I don't know what would have happened today if we had won in an easy way," he said. "Maybe people have been talking about Everton not wanting to win to stop Liverpool winning the title. Here in the Premier League you have to fight to the last game."

But he can kill off seasons, as well as conversations. On that crazy May afternoon in 2012, his Malaga needed a win, too, to reach the Champions League. They scored just past the break against Sporting Gijon and never looked back.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada