Sunday May 13th will prove to be one of the greatest days in league football history as Manchester United and Manchester City entered the final day of the EPL season at an 86-point deadlock for first place. Both United at Sunderland and QPR at City started at 3pm, meaning both stadiums would be sheepishly eyeing the other game’s results until the final whistle. The drama escalated throughout the afternoon as Manchester City played with fire at home going down 2-1 against a10-man QPR squad until Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero rescued the entire season with two stoppage-time goals, giving Manchester City the EPL crown while their neighbors looked on in spite. Although some would give a majority of the title-earning credit to the players or even the ownership, one man stands above the rest in leading Manchester City to their first EPL Title in forty-four years. At 5 foot 10 inches, topped with flowing hair, a trendy sports jacket, and a dashing scarf, City head boss Roberto Mancini looks more like an art critique than football manager. But this fiery Italian restlessly pushed his players to create the masterful painting of an English Premier League Champion football squad.
Master of Money
Manchester City’s oil baron owners have spent hundreds of millions on bringing in top-class talent to play in the Etihad, but money does not always equal success in sports. City has been criticized in having too much talent and not enough role players willing to sit and give up spots for the betterment of the team, which made starting rosters a more monumental decision for Mancini. In 2011, there was forward Carlos Tevez, who refused to come off the bench during a Champions League fixture apparently in an act of protest to the way he’d been treated. But Mancini wasn’t giving into Tevez’s demand, and quickly punished the Argentine and sent him a on a leave of absence until he was mentally ready to return to the club. In 2012 there was Mario Balotelli, the powerful Italian striker whose words and violent actions on the field were costing City stability on and off the field. Mancini used different tactics with Balotelli, applying their personal relationship as Italians and keeping him on a tight leash. Tevez and Balotelli were just two examples of the long list of player and press crises that Mancini dealt with class and poise, ultimately saving City from destroying themselves.
Master of Minds
Managers use different forms of mental motivation for their clubs whether it is in the press or in the locker room—but few have mastered it. Mancini was able to motivate his squad throughout the lengthy season and somehow was able to keep his team backing him while simultaneously keeping the press on his side. Mancini’s mind games came to a climax with only weeks before the season close he publically proclaimed that Manchester City was out of title contention. Normally this negative outlook would be taken with criticism, but it in turned set free the enormous and growing pressure that was put before his players and himself. Without the added pressure of victory, Manchester City played their football with freedom in the final weeks of the season, making up the point difference and overtaking the title from Manchester United.
Master of Manchester
If there is one team that plagues the minds and hearts of the City players, coaches, owners, and fans is Sir Alex Ferguson and the Red Devils. Manchester United has been the big brother that always seems to win and always seems to find away. When Manchester United crept past City in the standings this April, it appeared that United was once again going to spoil City’s glory. But Mancini did not back down from United and Alex Ferguson, standing toe-to-toe with the greatest football manager of all-time not giving him a single foothold in the hearts of Manchester City. These actions off the pitch came to fruition on the pitch as Manchester City defeated their neighbors and rivals in both of their meetings including the April 30th match that gave City a share of first place in a 1-0 victory at home. United has always been the roadblock in the way of victory and thanks to Mancini, even the Knighted Lord of Football had to bow humbly to Manchester City in the end.
Master of Luck
In Roberto Mancini’s post-match interviews Sunday, he struggled to find words and was overwhelmed with the emotions of the day. After a season of extreme tension and pressure even Mancini was unable to control the anger, frustration, and eventual jubilee in victory. Sometimes even the greatest managers and teams need just a little luck to cross the finish line, and Manchester City was blessed with an evening and a season they’ll never forget.