Time for Mancini to get the credit he deserves?

Despite having delivered huge success since taking the reins at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini is yet to really receive the level of praise his performance merits. Whilst Harry Redknapp and other more media-friendly managers are lauded over for their average achievements, Mancini is left relatively ignored despite his impressive record during his short stint in English football. His conduct off the field (imaginary card waving aside) has seen him garner friends but no-one seems overly keen to trumpet his accomplishments. But the question is why?

It would seem he is weighed down by being the manager of ‘the world’s richest club’, with his achievements met with indifference and any failures magnified. In other words: when City do well, it’s expected due to their wealth, and when they do badly, the criticism comes thick and fast.

But is it not time to start lauding Mancini and the job he has done?

Firstly, he deserves great credit for taking the job in the first place. Although the role of City manager would be much coveted were it to become available today, when Mark Hughes was sacked things were different. City still had a reputation for failure; a poisoned chalice that could damage any manger’s reputation. The expectation was huge because of the takeover by the Abu Dhabi Group, making the pressure to deliver success too much for many. The sacking of Hughes was seen widely as a miscarriage of justice, with the owners painted as ruthless and impatient. Many managers were shirking the job but Mancini stepped up and took it on.

In the space of two-and-a-half years in charge, the Italian has delivered the F.A Cup (City’s first major trophy in 35 years), the Premier League title and two consecutive Champions League qualifications. He has brought David Silva and Sergio Aguero through the door and turned City into the most attractive side in the Premiership to watch. His first 18 months were characterised by caution as he sought to steady the unorganised ship left by his predecessor, and then last season he switched to a far more attacking style. It was a sensible progression that was phased in and it is an approach that has reaped huge rewards.

There have also been some more subtle alterations made during his tenure. The hugely improved form of Micah Richards almost certainly comes down to Mancini’s influence. Under Hughes, Richards career was flagging. The young man who was heralded as one of the best prospects in England in his teens was suddenly looking lost and defensively all over the place. Many City fans had given up on the idea that Richards could reach his potential, and secretly they were prepared to let him go. The idea of that is now absurd. Richards has become one of City’s most consistent players and defensively his improvement has been astounding. His athleticism and attacking intent is there for all to see, and Mancini has instilled a defensive nous that was previously missing. Even though Mancini regularly berates Richards in public, claiming he wants to see more from him, it’s clear he rates his right back highly.How Richards did not walk into the England set-up for the Euros is beyond even the most casual observer of City games.

“Always, always tough love!” Richards said of Mancini’s attitude towards him. “To be fair, he says the same with AJ and Joe and other people. But when Vinny is out he gives me the captain’s armband. I don’t mind saying I think I should play for England. I do. But then the manager says he agrees with Capello! If he’s saying it as a joke, I would have been, like, “Whatever”. But then he was actually serious when he said it so I am, like, “Come on, gaffer, I’m doing well, give me that extra bit of confidence, this is your chance”. But he goes the other way. That’s just his way. It’s his style. I’m totally cool with it. I know he rates me, really. He’s been good for me. He wouldn’t make me captain otherwise, would he?”
Joleon Lescott is another example of a player whose form picked up drastically under Mancini’s stewardship. Lescott looked a flop upon arrival; another in a long line of Hughes transfer cock-ups. But last season he was superb, forming a solid partnership with the irreplaceable Vincent Kompany. Whatever Mancini’s training regime involves, and it was not universally liked among the squad when he first arrived, the benefits are there for all to see.

Of course, finance in football is important, and any manager would love to have cash at their disposal. But turning a club that was so bereft of success it had become a laughing stock into a title winning team takes more than money. Mancini has had to instill belief and change the whole mentality of the club, something he has done with great success. Let’s not forget, even City employees recognised their deep-rooted failings. Former chairman Francis Lee famously said City would ‘win cups for cock-ups’, and Joe Royle, the manager who led them out of their deepest ever slump, coined the phrase ‘Cityitis’, a word used to describe the club’s knack of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Mancini has had to lance these boils and one feels those ‘typical City’ failings to now be a thing of the past.

It’s time for everyone in football to recognise Mancini’s talents and give him the credit he so richly deserves. In a difficult context he has delivered huge success.