Roberto Mancini is going to get eaten in the press over the next few days. Between now and the game with Swansea on Saturday night, all the media are going to talk about is the imminent failure to qualify from the Champions League group stage for a second successive year.
He deserves some criticism, but not as much he’s going to get.
We don’t do proportional reactions in football, it’s all boom-bust reporting and sensationalism – mix that tendency with Mancini’s less than impressive European record at City or at Inter Milan before, and there’s a natural story. ‘Mancini lacks the nous to win on the Continent’: that’ll be the headline, or something with a ‘clever’ play on words.
European success, just like its domestic counterpart, has a time lag attached – clubs who thrive in the Premier League don’t necessarily prosper immediately in the Champions League. Take, for example, Manchester United’s first few attempts in the 1990s – it was a learning process, and that side and their manager were unrecognisable from the pairing who ran wild all over English opposition at the weekends. It took time. Or look how long it took Chelsea to actually win the competition, nearly a decade of investment from Roman Abramovich before the trophy came back to the Fulham Road.
The point here, is that this is a learning curve, and while the press know that, they’ll wilfully ignore it for the sake of a story – and maybe having a shot at trying to create some instability at The Etihad. That would be a story, a managerial controversy at the home of the Champions, and that’s what a couple of them will push for.
Ignore it, the meat and drink of Mancini’s job description is the Premier League, a competition he may well be leading by the end of the week – don’t lose site of the good that he’s done, and the heights he’s taken this club to, just for the sake of a competition which he’s taking a little long to adjust to – it will come.
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