It seems like an age ago but Mario Balotelli was sold to AC Milan in January of this year following a number of high profile run-ins at the club on the training ground, on the pitch and in his private life. In fact, since his arrival at the Etihad in 2010 the Italian striker had been the bain of manager Roberto Mancini’s life.
There’s never been any doubt over ‘Super Mario’s’ talent but, let’s face it, his attitude stinks and he never really fulfilled his potential in Manchester and, after one controversy too many, his mentor Mancini decided to cut his losses on the youngster.
FA Cup final defeat
City had been behind United for much of the season and the chase on the neighbours seemed to be taking its toll mentally as much as physically by the time March and April rolled around by which point United were pretty much clear for the title.
By the time City faced soon-to-be-relegated Wigan Athletic at Wembley for the FA Cup final, the disappointment and lack of belief that hungover from their Premier League chase was all too clear on May 11th. City were poor and Wigan took full advantage to secure a famous title for the club but it was this 1-0 defeat that cemented the suggestions that it was time for a change at the Etihad.
Mancini was sacked from his post just two days after that defeat and everyone saw it coming – City needed to go in a new direction and, whilst the Italian had done very well to win the title in 2011/12, their poor performance in the Champions League and domestic cups as well as the Premier League last term spelled the end.
Manuel Pellegrini was announced as Mancini’s successor on June 14th and the Chilean got straight to work bringing in a number of new additions. Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo, Stevan Jovetic, and Martin Demichelis came in for a combined £102.8 million this summer with Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, Wayne Bridge, Maicon and Roque Santa Cruz departing.
City’s emphatic 4-1 victory over champions Manchester United at the Etihad in September set a benchmark for the season for Pellegrini’s side – walloping the champions in that fashion set the tone for the wins to follow and I think this was the moment that signalled a sea change at the Etihad. The victories that have followed – 6-0 over Spurs, 6-3 over Arsenal, and 2-1 over Liverpool have been made in the derby’s image and City are undoubtedly favourites to take the title in 2014.
image: © Andrew Brannan