The new Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, offered a bullish assessment of his chances of overcoming Manchester United’s supremacy today, declaring that he was here to achieve that task and predicting that he could achieve it next season.
Pellegrini avoided the caution his predecessor Roberto Mancini always employed about United, which was part of the Italian’s efforts to reduce the pressure on his team. “I know that the most important thing for all the fans is to beat Manchester United and if I am here it is because I am sure we will do it,” the 59-year-old said. “This year, same as other years, Manchester City will be top of Manchester United. We will try, at least.”
The 59-year-old, who laughed off his chief executive Ferran Soriano’s declaration that the club want to win at least five trophies in as many seasons, was also less than diplomatic as he described the failure of the club to prosper in the Champions League under Mancini. “I played against Man United twice in the Champions League with Villarreal. In both years we got to the last 16 of the Champions League and Man City did not do that.”
City fans will be hoping for more goals against United than Pellegrini’s Villarreal players managed in those two seasons. The four group stage fixtures between Pellegrini and Sir Alex Ferguson’s teams all resulted in goalless draws. But Pellegrini’s attempts to reach out to the club’s supporters – many of whom remain angered by Mancini’s dismissal after taking the club to second place in the Premier League the year after winning it – was the most obvious piece of choreography during his introductory press conference.
Asked why he had chosen City, Pellegrini cited the fans as his third reason, with his bosses Soriano and football director Txiki Begiristain as the first and the quality of the current squad as the second. “This club has incredible fans, playing in the Premier League or the third division, the fans are always together with the team,” Pellegrini declared. To Soriano’s “five trophies” declaration, made in New York last month, Pellegrini joked: “Just five? We will try to work and see how many trophies.”
Soriano will be relieved by the immediate evidence of Pellegrini’s capacity not to provide memorable answers to questions – though the Chilean was adamant that the summer signings Jesus Navas and Fernandinho were his own, in an era when the manager will have far less overall control than Mancini did. “Yes, of course, both [were my signings],” Pellegrini said. “I spoke a lot with Txiki about both, they are very important players and they are here.”
The new manager said that City needed “one” new striker after Tevez’s departure, though refused to discuss Sevilla’s Alvaro Negrado. “We have two strikers and we need another one but I am not talking about any names. We need a strong squad with two players in each position,” he said.
He said he had let Carlos Tevez go – to Juventus for an eventual £10m – because he didn’t want to stay at City. “I spoke with Carlos weeks ago. I feel that Carlos didn’t want to stay here any more. He was very clear telling me. It was the best choice for Carlos and the club.”
Pellegrini declared that he was in Manchester to change the way City played their football and make it far more attractive. “One of the important things because I am here is the way my other teams always played,” he said. “I think fans of Man City will see a different way to they play in the other years. I am sure we are going to play an attractive game. We will always try to play in the opposite side, being an attacking team, doing what all the other teams I worked with before did.”
He did not accept that big-spending Chelsea with Jose Mourinho were City’s biggest rivals next season.
“It’s very difficult to say now,” he declared. “I think here in the Premier League we have Man Utd, we have Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, maybe I forgot another one. Five or six teams are always trying to win the Premier League and I will try to win with Man City.”
He did not offer any sense that Gareth Barry and Joleon Lescott’s contract positions have been resolved.
“In the next week we will see on differing situations with different players. I will speak with Txiki and with all the players also to see what they want.” Neither was he willing to define what his characteristics as a manager actually are. “I don’t want to describe myself,” he said.