You had to feel somewhat sorry for Manuel Pellegrini last weekend. In what was his final Manchester City bow at the Etihad Stadium, the Chilean was given the chance to speak to the supporters after the team’s lap of honour. There was a slight problem however… no-one had actually stayed to hear what their departing manager had to say. That’s what three years and three trophies gets you at the Etihad these days.
Social media exploded as Pellegrini took to the mic to thank supporters for their help during his tenure, poking fun at suggestions that there was only around 10,000 people left when he began talking. Whilst Manchester City have been on a downward turn since the turn of the season, Pellegrini hasn’t done a terrible job, and if he had, he would have been sacked a long time ago by the people that can afford to bring anyone to Manchester.
Whilst progress has been in short supply, the supporters’ unwillingness to stay and say ‘thanks’ shows how far expectations have come at Manchester City post 2010. Since the Sheikh invasion and a couple of major honours, it’s now clear that the City faithful expect big things season-after-season and nothing less will be accepted. But as the modern-era Manchester City has formed and grown, you have to wonder whether some supporters are expecting a little too much, a little too soon.
Manuel Pellegrini has spent over £200million during his three-year tenure at City and that very much seems like the strategy employed by every Citizens manager these days – capitalise on the giant war chest the owners offer. For a City supporter this must be great- constantly upgrading the squad with the worlds’ best players – but we saw this season that some of these signings were coming to the end of their best playing days. The likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Jesus Navas don’t seem like the same players they were three years ago, and Pep Guardiola will get a blank chequebook to replace them.
It will be needed if City want to remain at the top. There has been clear regression in the past year at least and City now face the very real possibility of falling out of the top four before the end of the season – albeit they only need a draw at Swansea in their last game to keep Man United at arm’s length.
They were extremely close to making history against Real Madrid last week in the Champions League, losing only 1-0 over two legs, and when you add everything up, it seems that Pellegrini’s spell hasn’t been a total failure. Fans are free to express themselves in any way they wish though. After all, that’s what being a supporter is all about.
But Pellegrini’s time in charge has been on the decline and it’s time to move on again. But he didn’t deserve to say goodbye to empty stands.