Football FanCast columnist David Mooney reflects on the weekend’s events at Eastlands.
When it happened on Saturday, I couldn’t really put my feelings into words. But being somebody who commentates on a lot of the goings on at Manchester City, I knew that the sacking of Mark Hughes and the appointment of Roberto Mancini was something that I couldn’t ignore. But as I sat down on Saturday evening, nothing came from my keyboard and I found I was browsing Facebook, using Windows Live Messenger and Tweeting more than I do normally.
So, I thought I’d try again on Sunday. And again, nothing happened. Microsoft Word remained well and truly wordless.
And then it occurred to me why I was finding it so difficult to put my feelings down in an article such as this one. It was because it was something I didn’t have any strong feelings on either way – unlike with topics such as Jeremy Clarkson, self-service checkouts or the BNP, I wasn’t motivated to put pen to paper. Or finger to keyboard. Or whatever the modern day equivalent of that cliché is.
I’m just struggling to actually have an opinion on this. Don’t get me wrong, I was in favour of Mark Hughes keeping his position, but I wasn’t completely shocked to hear the news that he had been sacked. He wasn’t sacked for losing games, but for not winning them; a return of eight draws in 17 games didn’t do him any favours, especially when they were coming against teams City should be beating if they have any ambition of a top four finish – Burnley, Hull, Birmingham, Bolton…
See, part of my problem is that I have no prior knowledge about Roberto Mancini. I’m sorry if that seems absurd, but it’s the truth – I have no real interest in Italian football and he’s spent a large portion of his career (ie. all of it except four games) over there. For me, Italian football is very much like Lily Allen’s music; I know it exists and a lot of people like it, but I’ve never actually gone looking for it because I tend to find it quite dull.
All I know about Mancini is that he used to manage Inter Milan and spent a bit of time at Leicester City when they weren’t hanging around the second division or whatever it’s called this season, but apart from that I’ve only got Wikipedia to go off. And Wikipedia once told me Titus Bramble was attracting the attention of Barcelona to the tune of £100m after being voted World Player of the Year… And I didn’t make that up.
It seems he won a few honours in Italy – the cup with Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan. Along with the league title three times with the latter, as well. Which, if anything, must bode well for City’s upcoming Carling Cup semi-final with Manchester United. And, yes, I suppose that’s more than “a few honours in Italy”.
But are those statistics slightly skewed? A bit of reading around the subject tells me that the first title was won by default; Juventus originally won the league, but it later became clear that the results of several games could have been handed to the newswires before they had actually kicked off. Inter Milan were simply the highest placed team after points deductions.
Though the following season, all that seems to be immaterial. Inter went on a massive winning streak and the points deductions of rivals (Lazio lost three points, AC Milan eight points, Reggina 11 points, Fiorentina 15 points, while Juventus were relegated to Serie B) weren’t influential in the outcome of the season. Inter finished a massive 22 points ahead of second placed Roma and 36 points ahead of city rivals AC Milan.
I wouldn’t grumble about that. Though I won’t be expecting us to finish 36 points ahead of Manchester United just yet.
What might be something to grumble about is the manner in which the managerial change has been conducted. It’s been floating around the press for a while that Mark Hughes hasn’t been far from the sack, but for it to have been announced directly after a 4-3 victory and a wave goodbye to the crowd suggests that the decision had been made some time ago and Hughes himself knew before the match kicked off. Whether he had been told in an official capacity or not is unclear, especially after his statement to the press on Sunday, but as he left the pitch he certainly looked like he was well aware that he wouldn’t be taking training yesterday.
But, then again, some would argue that City have never been good at sacking managers.
I’m just not sure I see the logic in swapping a manager who is untried and unproven at the top level in England for a manager who is untried and unproven at the top level in England. Especially when the club isn’t yet at the top level in England.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m as fickle as the next football fan and when success comes to City – be it with Mancini with Hughes’s players, Mancini with his own players, whoever takes over from the new man, or whoever takes over from whoever takes over from the new man, using whatever players are still around from any scenario I’ve painted in this rather long and unnecessary paragraph – I’ll be as happy as a man who’s just discovered that 4.00pm meeting on a Friday has been cancelled.
I suppose I just feel a bit sorry for Mark Hughes, who was on course for what a lot of City fans would have seen as a successful season – a top six finish and a cup win. Ok, neither is guaranteed, but with two cup games against Manchester United coming up and their unease at using first team players for the competition, and with a game in hand while already sitting in sixth position, both outcomes were, and still are, certainly possible.
But I suppose the biggest reason why this article has been totally underwhelming is, when it comes down to it, what’s done is done. Mark Hughes has been sacked, Roberto Mancini is the manager, Manchester City is my football club and I’ll be cheering them come rain, snow, sleet, hail, or shine next Saturday.