Angry Pellegrini lays down law to captain Kompany
Man City 5 B'mouth 1
Published 19/10/2015 | 02:30
Control, rather than power, was the one element of management which Alex Ferguson often insisted was the most crucial during his 27-year reign at Manchester United and, as Vincent Kompany stewed on the substitutes' bench during Manchester City's victory against Bournemouth, Manuel Pellegrini may well have earned a quiet nod of acknowledgement from the Scot.
While Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Bony shared five goals to show Eddie Howe's team who was boss on the pitch at the Etihad Stadium, Pellegrini's decision to leave Kompany out of his starting line-up delivered the same emphatic message to his captain.
Having missed City's past five games with a calf strain before the international break, Kompany shrugged off Pellegrini's warning about not risking his fitness with Belgium by insisting that he was "glad" to return to action in the meaningless Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel in Brussels last Tuesday because "I play for my country and I am proud to do it".
It was a flagrant act of defiance - particularly for a player with a history of recurring muscle injuries - and a sign of the unchecked hubris which the defender has developed in recent seasons at City.
But having admitted to being unhappy with Belgium's decision to ignore City's medical advice not to use Kompany, by leaving the player rooted to the bench as his team romped to victory against Bournemouth, Pellegrini made it clear that it is the manager, and not the captain, who has control at the Etihad Stadium.
"I don't think Vincent was able to play after working just Friday with the team," Pellegrini said.
"He was on the bench because he played for Belgium on Tuesday and couldn't work on Wednesday and Thursday.
"I think working just one day after one month injured is not enough to play again.
"So I don't think he was able to play in this game. He is not able to play three games in a week."
Dropping a captain can be a high-risk strategy. Ferguson won his battle with Roy Keane at Old Trafford, but Brendan Rodgers never recovered at Liverpool from his decision to drop Steven Gerrard against Real Madrid last season and the final act in Jose Mourinho versus John Terry at Chelsea has still to be played out.
The choice now for Pellegrini is whether to extend Kompany's purgatory by overlooking him for the Champions League match against Sevilla on Wednesday and possibly even the derby against United next Sunday.
After City consolidated top spot in the Premier League with this win, however, Pellegrini was keen to keep Kompany guessing. "We will start thinking about the Champions League after this game," the manager said. "But remember, we finished with [Nicolas] Otamendi and [Eliaquim] Mangala against Newcastle before the international break and we did very well there."
Meanwhile Sterling, the £49million winger, took his goal tally to five in 11 games since arriving from Liverpool during the summer. With Sergio Aguero facing at least a month out with a hamstring injury - Pellegrini also suggested that the Argentine "could have taken more precautions" after playing for his country - the importance of Sterling, 20, has increased.
His first-half hat-trick encapsulated his pace and readiness to run at opposing defences, although two missed chances in the second half highlighted some rough edges. Bony's two goals will also boost the Ivorian's confidence, with his season disrupted by malaria.
Bournemouth, who scored through Glenn Murray in the first half, were denied a penalty at 0-0 when Otamendi felled Dan Gosling in the penalty area, but with the unconvincing Adam Federici thrust into goal following a pre-match injury to Artur Boruc, Howe admitted that top-flight naivety ultimately proved his team's downfall. The manager said: "We were excellent in spells in the first half but we didn't help ourselves with the mistakes we made.
Hopefully, it's a learning curve for our players to grow from."