It's back to the drawing board -- and Thursday night football -- for Mancini
Published 08/12/2011 | 05:00
There was a cold wintry breeze whipping round the Etihad Stadium last night, bitter enough to make the locals wish they had not, after all, torched their Carlos Tevez signature snood.
But there was no doubt about the warmth of the welcome to the evening's Champions League visitors. A big sign had been attached to the building's glass frontage which read 'Willkommen'.
It was a nice touch as the stadium played host to 3,000 noisy Germans, keen to celebrate their team's serene progress to the last 16. Or, as the home manager Roberto Mancini -- sounding ever more like an Italian Inspector Clouseau -- put it, the fact that they had already "qualificated."
Though quite how 'willkommen' one of the visitors was, is debatable. Like his contemporary at Napoli, Aurelio de Laurentiis, the Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has an audible beef with Manchester City.
He has been making disparaging remarks about the club all autumn and this week his mouth went into overdrive, his hackles raised by City's monetary arrangements. Following the announcement that City's annual losses were approaching those of Greece in scale, he was insisting that Uefa follow its own rules, and preclude the club from playing in the Champions League until such time as they bring their operation into line with the Financial Fair Play guidelines.
whatever the niceties of the balance sheet, most neutrals would not wish a side featuring the passing, movement and imagination of Samir Nasri, David Silva and Sergio Aguero to be deprived of a seat football's top table.
Take Silva's opening goal last night. It was a thing of majesty, formed by a player in the form of his life. Receiving the ball from Edin Dzeko, Silva strode into the Bayern area and stroked the ball in a perfect, bending arc past Jorg Butt.
It should have been a goal to illuminate City progress. Just as the second added by the vibrant Yaya Toure should have been the icing on the cake of victory. Instead, it just made you wonder what could -- perhaps should -- have been.
Doubtless much to the satisfaction of Rummenigge, what last night proved was this immutable law of football: money does not buy instant success. Despite spending like Elton John in a flower shop in the pursuit of victory, Mancini's side have fallen well short. A vibrant performance in Villarreal notwithstanding, their campaign has been unconvincing since that night in Munich, when discipline, team-spirit and the collective resolve seemed to dissipate in the face of rampant individualism.
From there, the European adventure never really took off. Perhaps, through lack of relevant mutual experience, the dominance of domestic matters simply could not be transferred.
It seems ridiculous that the home crowd were obliged to watch the half-time highlights from Villarreal and groan at every near miss. And then spend the entire second half praying for good news from Spain -- good news which never came.
Thus, for Mancini, the season starts again. There is undoubtedly work to be done at the Etihad. Not least in rearranging the weekly training timetable to accommodate Thursday night football.
Sure, City had the toughest group of any of England's Champions League representatives. But as last night's performance against an admittedly second-string Bayern demonstrated, the manager has the players at his disposal to make a mark. He will have gone home last night wondering how it was that a team of this skill failed to progress. (© Daily Telegraph, London)