The Top Five Moments, Matches and Periods in the Pellegrini Era

You’d be forgiven for reading the title of this piece and thinking, ‘wait, there were five positive moments in the Pellegrini era?’ Who could blame you after seeing some of the lacklustre performances in the last couple of years? Nobody. Despite that, there was the occasional bit of respite, and Manuel Pellegrini’s time at City was not entirely marred with incompetent performances, bizarre substitutions and even worse transfer activity. With three trophies and a fair few memorable performances here and there, there are indeed times worth reminiscing about. So, what makes the list of five? Here’s my take on the top five moments, matches and periods during the Chilean’s time in charge.

In at Number Five: Kevin Makes History

This particular moment is the latest chronologically of my top five, and only happened a couple of months ago. City had travelled to Paris in the first leg of this heavyweight European tie and gained a very credible 2-2 draw in the Parc des Princes. The tie was in the balance, but many pundits were still predicting a domestically dominant PSG side to progress. The game was cagey, Zlatan Ibrahimovic never managed to wriggle free from Eliaquim Mangala’s back pocket, and resultantly PSG never really got going. On the other hand, a Sergio Aguero first-half penalty miss did nothing for the nerves of the 50,000+ City fans in attendance. The match was drawing to a nail-biting finish. City were in the box seat, but knew that a goal from PSG would act as a potential curtain closer. And then, in the 76th minute up stepped arguably City’s player of the year: Kevin De Bruyne. His near-perfect effort flew into the bottom corner of the goal and the Etihad exploded. It sent City from their first Champions League quarter-final straight into their first Champions League semi-final. It was the kind of the moment that many Blues will have dreamt of when watching harsher times several years ago. A fine European moment.

With His Hands on Number Four: Willy’s Shootout

Not quite a moment, but a series of them. Pellegrini’s decision to start Willy Cabellero in the 2016 League Cup Final was met with much controversy and some might say protest – though more from a social media standpoint. Joe Hart was obviously the stronger goalkeeper, but Manuel refused to go back on his word after starting Willy in every other round of the cup. The game was tense at times, however for most of the second half it looked as though City were going to squeak over the line after Fernandinho opened the scoring. Unfortunately, Philippe Coutinho levelled the match shortly before full-time to force an extra half hour, and in the end – penalties. Caballero had his moments in the game itself, but with penalties looming, there will have been plenty of Blues nervous about the final outcome. Those nerves weren’t settled after Fernandinho missed City’s first penalty and Liverpool converted. Willy was to have his day. Three penalty saves in succession saw City run out winners and secure the second League Cup of Pellegrini’s reign. But in particular, it was the heroics of the Argentinian goalkeeper that captured the feeling of the day. Much maligned before kick off, his contributions during that particular match will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Flying to Number Three: Yaya Toure’s Hammer Blow

Pellegrini’s first taste of success with City was in March 2014, as he secured City’s first League Cup triumph since 1976. Mind the cliché, but this really was a game of two halves. City’s opponents, Sunderland, took an early lead through Fabio Borini, and it felt as if the 1-0 Sunderland curse that had attached itself to us was about to strike again. City went in at the half one down, and in need of inspiration. Inspiration came in the shape of the giant Ivorian. With ten minutes gone in the second half, the ball was rolled back to him by Pablo Zabaleta and the rest is history. A truly remarkable goal, and for me, the best goal I have ever seen live, all things considered. Yaya’s hammer blow acted as a catalyst for success, as Samir Nasri struck a minute later, before Jesus Navas sealed the win late on.

Second Place on the List: First Place in the League

The 2013/14 season was not without it’s drama. City had failed to ever really establish themselves as title favourites, whilst always being in and around the race. On the flip side, Liverpool were enjoying their best season in years, with Chelsea never falling too far from the title tree either. Of course, we made it hard for ourselves; but would it really be the City way without adversity? The Blues travelled to Anfield on the 13th April and lost what looked to be a fairly significant match. Followed by a poor draw at home to Sunderland, the light at the end of the tunnel looked as if it was slipping away. But, City had been here before, two years earlier they had closed a larger gap to snatch the title away from Manchester United. Two fantastic victories at Crystal Palace and Everton paved the way for City, and following a win at home to Aston Villa, City needed only a point on the final day. West Ham were the visitors, and whilst things looked fairly routine on paper; only a fool would back City to do things comfortably. Contrary to popular belief though, they did. A 2-0 win secured Manuel’s first league title with the club and lay the groundworks for years to come (how wrong we were).

Number One: A Gargantuan Collection

It might almost seem like cheating to place this as number one on my list, but it’s my list so I don’t care. Manuel Pellegrini’s best moment, match or period in charge comes in the form the latter – a period. Between Sunday 24th November 2013 and Wednesday 29th January 2014, City were unstoppable – and I mean unstoppable. It began with a destructive 6-0 victory against Tottenham Hotspur in November. City’s attacking play that year was starting to take shape, and the matches that followed only further highlighted this. The Blues were to go 20 games unbeaten during this period, winning a massive 18 of those games. That’s perhaps not even the most impressive statistic though. City scored 69 goals during those 20 games, an average of just under 3.5 per match. Never in my lifetime have I seen a side so dominant playing in sky blue, and it really was a special time to watch City play football. No trophies were won, no league titles secured – but a culmination of everything you hope for when you watch City play occurred during that two month period. And that for me, is why it ranks as number one on this list.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur - Etihad Stadium

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