Time runs out for Pellegrini era as City stars down tools
Club eye Guardiola swoop but will have to wait another year
It was the 'trajectory of results' which did for Mark Hughes at Manchester City, while Roberto Mancini was sacked as manager four years later because the club's players were no longer performing for the Italian.
Heaven knows what will now save Manuel Pellegrini, with the champions' form falling off a cliff largely because he is managing a group of players whose tools have been on the floor for the majority of 2015 and for all but the first 15 minutes of their derby humiliation against Manchester United.
Pellegrini's trajectory is downhill all the way, while the players are showing little sign of being motivated by the former Real Madrid coach.
The spin coming out of the Etihad Stadium in recent weeks, when faced with the inevitable questions about Pellegrini's future, has been along the lines of 'nothing to see here,' with the Chilean supposedly safe in his position because, to put it bluntly, there is nobody available who is deemed good enough to replace the 61-year-old.
Carlo Ancelotti is likely to be free to distribute a CV embellished by a double with Chelsea and three European Cups if Real Madrid, as expected, part company with him this summer, but City's Catalan axis of chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain don't quite fancy the Italian's brand of football.
The dream scenario is that Pep Guardiola will come to City's rescue in 12 months' time when his Bayern Munich contract expires, but the harsh reality for the club and its Abu Dhabi owners is that they cannot wait until next year to untangle the mess they now find themselves in.
For a regime that has shown little inclination for putting up with failure since acquiring the club in September 2008, it would be an unlikely change if Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan was to sanction more of the same under Pellegrini next season, simply because he would quietly keep the seat warm for Guardiola.
Having overseen a run of eight defeats in 17 games this calendar year - a year which began with City joint top of the league with Chelsea - and four successive away defeats in the Premier League, the argument for retaining Pellegrini is already flimsy.
Yet if he were to remain at the helm next season, merely as a bridge between now and the day Guardiola might walk into the Etihad, the sense of him being a lame duck manager would be inescapable.
With this City squad appearing to do nothing more than shrug their shoulders when told to jump by their manager, what hope does Pellegrini have of motivating them next season when it will be an open secret that he is only there because somebody else was not available?
Pellegrini, at least, is one member of the football staff prepared to shoulder the blame for the team's failings.
"I always think it is my responsibility," Pellegrini said, when asked whether he questions his own contribution in such difficult times.
When pushed on how he intends to drag City from their slump, what change he can make, the response was simple - "Winning." City are not winning and they barely look like doing so and that is as much Pellegrini's fault as his players, considering he is the man who lays out the tactical game-plan.
If Liverpool defeat Newcastle United at Anfield tonight, City will be just four points clear of fifth position and in danger of allowing Champions League qualification to slip through their grasp.
Little wonder that Pellegrini was taunted with chants of 'You're getting sacked in the morning' by gloating United supporters as his team crumbled in the second half.
But if the word from Abu Dhabi is to be believed, Pellegrini will be left to stumble on for another 12 months before Guardiola emerges like a knight in shining armour from Bavaria.
Both sound like fairy tales at this moment in time, but for Pellegrini he can forget about a happy ending. (© Daily Telegraph, London)