A lot has been made of the apathy towards Manuel Pellegrini in the aftermath of yet another disappointing home result against Arsenal. A lack of respect from the City fans for a man who has won three titles in as many years, we’re told. A false sense of entitlement by supporters who not twenty years ago would fill an historic ground, in a rundown area of Manchester to watch their team play in the third tier of English football.
The problem with that sentiment is, respect is earned. I take you back a year. Frank Lampard spent less than twelve months with City and in that trophyless year, he received a fitting send-off, from a full stadium may I add, that brought him to tears.
In the twelve months since, Manuel Pellegrini has done little to earn my respect or affection in the same way many others have. He’s become synonymous with sending out teams devoid of any tactical nous, defensive solidity or offensive cohesion. We’ve become a football side that is so heavily reliant on individual brilliance to win games, regularly coming unstuck when facing opposition of similar quality. His job is to win football games, and quite frankly, City haven’t done that enough this season.
Maybe more pertinently, however, he’s sending out teams that appear to have a lack of fight and desire to win these games. As City fans, we can accept not winning games. In fact, at one point we became all too familiar with it. But it’s the lack of effort that rankles with a majority working-class fanbase who have had to pay top dollar once again this season to watch their side come off second best far too often.
The excuses are there for him too. Fingers are often pointed at Txiki for the perceived failed recruitment during Pellegrini’s tenure. It’s naïve to assume any football club can have anywhere close to a 100% success rate with transfers, some will inevitably fail for a multitude of reasons. But for so many individuals to fail so drastically in Manchester after excelling elsewhere, that surely can’t be coincidence. Otamendi for example, hailed the best centre half in La Liga just twelve months ago, now a laughing stock in our defensive “structure”. Who looked at Bony upon signing him and thought he’d struggle to the extent he has? Even looking at the rarely deemed success stories, De Bruyne has had his ineffective games, mostly where he’s been shunned into unfamiliar wide territory. Blame lies solely with the manager for not getting the best of his players.
Similarly, it’s become all too cliché that the Pep announcement derailed what was on track to be a successful season. We were after all in four competitions at the time. Despite not playing well since early October and never looking like winning the Premier League, we were apparently in the race for the title. Pellegrini had managed to navigate through two rounds of the FA Cup with a full strength side, only for him then to sacrifice that competition, whilst attempting to ruin a few kids’ confidence in the process. And let’s not forget, we were guests amongst the European elite, where we looked horribly out of place and whimpered out in Madrid due to another Manuel masterclass we’ve become all too accustomed to. But this announcement derailed our season some will tell you, an announcement Pellegrini himself chose to make, this despite the efforts of the board trying to keep the questions at a minimum with a contract extension last summer. That contract extension, by the way, is set to pocket the outgoing manager in excess of £4m, before you feel too sorry for him.
Pellegrini has, in fairness, bowed out with the Capital One Cup, a competition that had a League Two side contest the final not too long ago. Like many clubs, it’s undoubtedly at the bottom of our list of priorities, but a trophy nonetheless. And we’re told to look at this with context, and remember what other managers have achieved, or not achieved as it were for our club. But for those fans of context, how many managers have been afforded the resources and the luxuries that Manuel Pellegrini has?
Taking into account those resources, there are no valid excuses for Pellegrini’s failure. City have lost fifteen games this season, many of those emphatically. Leicester, comparatively, have lost just five. We have picked up a meagre four points from a possible thirty against the other sides in the top six, including no wins. To put in perspective the damage of these stats, City currently have 65 points, that’s just one point more than David Moyes amassed in his disaster of a season at Old Trafford before being chased out. Yet perhaps most damningly of all, City have beaten only one of the six sides to be relegated (assuming this year’s bottom three remains the same) away from home in the past two seasons.
Of those away games, some of which I personally attended along with thousands of other blues, how many times has Pellegrini acknowledged the City fans after an abject performance? And I don’t mean a timid wave in the direction of the away allocation when he hears his name being sang fondly by the usually huge following. I mean how many times has he acknowledged the genuine effort of those fans? Fans who spend their hard earned money to watch multi-millionaires, Pellegrini included, not match that effort for just ninety minutes a week. It’s a small gesture, but one that doesn’t go unnoticed in earning respect and affection of travelling supporters.
So no, I won’t offer my respect to a man that hasn’t earned it. I won’t make banners like Liverpool fans did with Rodgers, I won’t hold up a pathetic piece of paper like Arsenal fans with Wenger and I won’t go to the extreme of hiring a plane to fly over the ground to show my discontent like United fans with Moyes. I’ll merely choose to not acknowledge him, with the same disdain he refuses to acknowledge those loyal City followers. After all, I’d rather not say goodbye anyway, I’d rather say good riddance.