'United are not the only team we have to beat'
Published 14/07/2013 | 05:00
Manuel Pellegrini is accustomed to local hostility. For a man who has survived el superclasico in Buenos Aires and el derbi Madrileno in Spain, Manchester's equivalent clash suddenly seems less daunting. "A coach who has worked in Argentina can work in any part of the world," says Pellegrini.
"If you lose the superclasico, you can't go out of your home for at least a week, you have to hide. You must stay in the training ground at least two or three hours after the session has finished."
Pellegrini will probably not need to seek refuge at Carrington should City lose the first Manchester derby of the season in September, five games into his first Premier League campaign. But victory over David Moyes's United at such an early stage in an emerging rivalry would endear the club's new manager to supporters still coming to terms with Roberto Mancini's departure.
The Chilean spoke calmly and eloquently before departing on City's pre-season tour of South Africa, despite having to field questions about his credentials as a manager. Pellegrini may not have won a trophy in European football, with the exception of the Intertoto Cup in 2004, but he did take Villarreal to the semi-final of the Champions League and second in La Liga during five successful years at El Madrigal.
He was sacked by Real Madrid despite a record league points tally before leading Malaga to within seconds of a Champions League semi-final last season, only to be cruelly denied by Borussia Dortmund.
Yet it is Pellegrini's time in Argentina, and specifically with River Plate, that allows him to put the pressures of a debut Premier League campaign in perspective. Eastlands will be awash with blue and red on September 22, but it will be nothing compared with the incendiary atmosphere of El Monumental or La Bombonera on derby day in Buenos Aires.
"In Argentina, River Plate and Boca is a crazy rivalry. Not only on the pitch during 90 minutes, it's the whole week, the whole month, the whole year," he says. "I haven't met any Manchester United fans yet. Of course, here we have an important rivalry with them and we will do our best to beat them. But it is an easier rivalry than that at River.
"I'm not concerned about the pressure, I've had a lot of pressure everywhere. I am used to being under pressure, the pressure at Real Madrid is about the same as Manchester City. Argentina is the worst.
"Man Utd are not the only team we have to beat. They're a very important team and we have a great rivalry, but we also have Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and others. We have at least five or six teams that will also be very difficult."
Pellegrini, a qualified civil engineer, has already added two new players to his squad and hopes to bring in "two or three" more before the transfer window closes. He insists that Edin Dzeko "will stay" – "he's a very important player and I'm sure that he will give this year the performance that we know he can do" – despite interest in the Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo.
Having met Sheikh Mansour face to face this summer, Pellegrini has been handed the daunting target of securing five trophies in five years by the City chief executive, Ferran Soriano, with European success having eluded City.
"I am not the fashionable coach who won the last title last year," says Pellegrini. "It's more important for me that I am here in Manchester City for the work I did over the last years in Spain and South America and the way my teams play.
"It was surprising that Manchester City didn't continue in the Champions League (last season). I know last year they had a very difficult group with Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund. But before the Champions League started, if you said which club would arrive (in the last 16), I would say Manchester City.
"It's very important that the team has a winning mentality first of all, always thinking and playing like a big team. I'm not comparing with Roberto Mancini or with Mark Hughes or with any other coach that worked here before me, but I'm just telling you what I think about the clubs that I want to manage. It's very important to think and to play as a big team and try to always play – not just score a goal and then play on the counter-attack. We try to score another goal and to play always the same, not changing the style we play depending on the team we have in front of us."
Creating that winning mentality was something Alex Ferguson did so effectively as Manchester United manager and Moyes will look to emulate his predecessor. Pellegrini's difficult task is to try to become the dominant force in Manchester, consistently finishing above their rivals.
"Sir Alex Ferguson had some incredible players and I don't think he wanted to continue because he had done all the work he could do at the club. But I don't think with David Moyes that Manchester United will be easier."