Next season, the blue side of Manchester will be getting arguably the best manager in the world as Pep Guardiola, after conquering Spain and Germany, turns his eyes to England. A new era in the history of Manchester City will be underway.
However, amidst all the furore and the smiles that are currently covering one half of Manchester, there is one man who must be given a round of applause for what he has done with his team. Manuel Pellegrini will be departing the club come June, having been a source of joy for the fans in the past three years more often than not.
The Chilean joined the club in 2013, taking over the reins from Roberto Mancini, who in turn had steered City to their first league title in 44 years before being sacked in the end of the following season. Pellegrini came to Manchester with not the most impressive of resumes, having won only the now extinct UEFA Intertoto Cup in the last decade of his managerial career. However despite his lack of silverware, the then 60-year-old had had some productive years in Spain with the likes of Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga, prompting City fans to think that maybe this man was the right man to lead their club at the moment.
And they were right.
Pellegrini took the footballing world by storm in his very first season in England. After an initial unstable start to his tenure where City had lost four league games by mid-November, the club went on a 20 match unbeaten streak in all competitions. This run included wins over the mighty Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League, and a sound 6-3 beating of then league leaders, Arsenal.
Of these 20 matches, there were only two draws, while City averaged over three goals a game in this streak and created a League Cup record of the highest aggregate win in the competition (9-0 against West Ham United in the semi-finals).
At the end of his first season in charge, Pellegrini had lead Manchester City to their second league title in the Premier League era, becoming the first coach from outside Europe to win the title in England. The team also won the Capital One Cup in March, which led to Pellegrini being the first manager in City history to achieve a “double” with the club.
The Chilean also got City out of the group stage in the Champions League with was an improvement from the previous two campaigns. In this record breaking season for the club, City broke another one by netting 151 goals in all competitions, a feat previously unprecedented in England. At the start of the season you’d have found longer odds on City accomplishing this than you would have on any game at a casino.
His second season with the club however, was highly anticlimactic. The Citizens were joint top of the table on New Year’s Day along with red hot Chelsea, but saw a dip in form in the next few games from which they never recovered, ultimately finishing second in the league, eight points behind winners Chelsea.
There were some good games in the season, but overall it wasn’t one to be remembered as City failed to defend their Capital One Cup trophy and had their Champions League run abruptly ended when they faced eventual winners Barcelona (for the second season in a row) in the Round of 16, crashing out 3-1 on aggregate.
The start to Pellegrini’s third (and his last) season with the club was highlighted by the signings that City had made in the summer — most notably Wolfsburg star Kevin De Bruyne, who hit the ground running. Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling was another high profile signing, with the youngster providing some much needed pace and guile down the flank while also being a great bench option when not starting.
At this stage of the current season, Manchester City currently lie on 4th position in the league table, six points adrift of leaders Leicester City. Pellegrini’s men will be playing Liverpool in the final of the Capital One Cup on 28th February, which could see the 62-year-old winning his third major honour with the club.
The club is still alive in the FA Cup where they’ll face Chelsea in the fifth round, and they could be on their way to their first quarterfinal appearance in the Champions League, as they go in the round of 16 as favourites (a first for them) against Dynamo Kyiv.
Pellegrini has managed Manchester City for a total of 146 games at the time of writing and has an impressive win percentage of 63.7% — Mancini managed 59%. The Chilean has won the PL Manager of the Month award four times, as well as already having won two major honours with the club in two and a half seasons while being the first manager in City history to win a double with the club.
Add to that the fact that he could very well win a minimum of one more trophy this season, and that he has made signings like De Bruyne, Nicolas Otamendi, and Sterling to name a few, who are the future of the club, one can safely say that the tenure of the former Malaga man in Manchester’s blue half has been more of a success than a disappointment.
Next season, a new era will begin at a club which has for so long been in the shadow of its counterpart Manchester United. But let us not forget the man who has managed to successfully lead the club in the past few years. Managers in this era are often labelled as “overrated”, but the quiet Chilean who has managed to win four Manchester derbies is perhaps one of the select few who has received less praise than what he deserves.