As Mancini prepares to lead his side out in the FA Cup final, and with his future in doubt, Vincent Ralph turns the spotlight on the Italian.
Few managers have led their side out in a FA Cup final fearing for their future. Even fewer would have done so having secured the league title less than twelve months earlier.
Following a number of reports suggesting Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini is set to replace the Italian at the Etihad, this afternoon could see Mancini finish with a trophy for the third straight season, and then collect his P45.
We ran a story last night following quotes from Spanish football journalist Guillem Balague, claiming a deal for the Chilean was all but done.
“Pellegrini will be the next coach of Manchester City,” he wrote.
“The agreement with the current coach of Malaga was recently reached, after Txiki Begiristain received carte blanche from the owner of the English club, Sulaiman Al-Fahim, to close the deal with the Chilean coach.”
Not normally one to make bold statements without concrete evidence, Balague then went on to claim Mancini’s departure had been earmarked some time ago.
It was something the Italian alluded to in an interview yesterday.
With City openly admitting that sporting director Begiristain had met with Pellegrini’s agent two weeks ago, Mancini’s words were more ones of hope than certainty.
“If we win the cup most people would say we did a good season, but at Inter Milan I won seven trophies in four years and they still sacked me.”
City go into this afternoon’s match strong favourites to win a second FA Cup in three years. Should they not, that writing on the wall will grow for all to see.
And even if they add more silverware to a cabinet that for so long was bereft, it seems both Manchester clubs may be starting next season with new men in the hot seat.
Today should be one of unbridled joy for the two managers involved. But the truth is both have other things on their mind.
Roberto Martinez will know that Premier League survival is almost beyond him, while Mancini will have one eye on Spain.
When asked why Begiristain would have met with the Malaga coach Mancini said, “I don’t know why they met, but I hope that he had a good dinner.”
If the reports are to be believed, the Italian’s last supper at City may not be too far away.
Who do you think will be in charge at the Etihad next season? And does Mancini deserve more time?
image: © Andrew Brannan