LONDON (Reuters) - A week of worldwide acclaim for Alex Ferguson and his 26 years in charge of Manchester United patently failed to get the message through to Manchester City’s trigger-happy owners that stability is the key to sustained footballing success.
Instead, goaded by their rivals’ city-center parade with the Premier League trophy two days after City were humbled by Wigan Athletic in a massive FA Cup final shock, they sacked manager Roberto Mancini, the man who a year ago to the day was being worshipped as the ‘City Messiah’.
In the modern world of soccer short-termism, no manager sacking is ever truly a surprise and Mancini’s exit looked a certainty once he spoke out against the club’s Abu Dhabi owners following Saturday’s Wembley defeat.
Few, however, could have been shown the door with such a ringing endorsement.
“Roberto’s record speaks for itself and he has the respect and gratitude of Sheikh Mansour, myself and the Board for all of his hard work and commitment over the last three and a half years,” said chairman Khaldoon Al Mubara.
“He has clearly also secured the love and respect of our fans. He has done as he promised and delivered silverware and success, breaking the club’s 35-year trophy drought and securing the title in 2012.”
That title, City’s first for 44 years, was secured in the most dramatic fashion in the final seconds of the final match of the season by Sergio Aguero’s goal, and, with a stunning 6-1 victory at Old Trafford en route, would, in any normal world, have been enough to establish Mancini for the long run.
The multimillionaire owners showed, however, that they wanted more, more, more, and quickly. City’s failure to get past the group stage of the Champions League for the second successive season left them feeling short-changed and when their defense of the Premier League title fell away, Mancini’s last remaining hope was the FA Cup.
A limp display at Wembley, however, when they were deservedly beaten by a Wigan side looking destined for relegation, left City without any silverware and only the consolation of another crack at the Champions League next season.
“Despite everyone’s best efforts, the club has failed to achieve any of its stated targets this year, with the exception of qualification for next season’s Champions League,” City said in the statement announcing Mancini’s sacking.
A day earlier Ferguson had stood in the center circle of Old Trafford and told the world of his grateful appreciation of how United’s owners had stood by him during his trophy-less first few years - a faith that was repaid a thousand-fold in the next two decades.
David Moyes, who after Ferguson and Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger had been the next-longest serving manager after 11 years at Everton, was also given an emotional send-off at Goodison Park on Sunday despite having joined United, with fans recognizing his unstinting service as he built a firm base despite a desperately limited budget.
Those two managerial moves left Wenger as the clear ‘Grandfather’ of the Premier League with almost 17 years’ service. Tony Pulis is next in line after six years at Stoke City while Wigan’s Roberto Martinez is the only other man to have been in the job for more than three years.
“Because of the money thrown at the club (City), the impatience is there, and the demand for success is much higher,” Wenger said a few hours before the Mancini announcement.
“These people want to be rewarded quickly but I believe for stability inside the club ... it’s important you have people who represent the values you want and the manager can be one of these people when he has been there for a long time.”
There was certainly no shortage of money, with Mancini spending almost 300 million pounds ($460 million) on transfer fees alone.
Some imports were more successful than others and the owners, unlike the fans, were no doubt unimpressed when the Italian publicly berated the likes of Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Joe Hart and Samir Nasri after poor performances.
The new man in the City hot seat will no doubt move some of the big names on and bring in more of his own but he will be well aware that the owners have no appetite for any sort of long-term team-building, despite their mysterious reference on Monday to the “need to develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football at the club.”
Moyes joined United on a six-year deal, with Ferguson demanding that the fans be as patient with the new man as they were with him.
City’s new boss had better hit the ground running or he will be looking nervously over his shoulder after six months.
Editing by Ian Ransom