Tuesday 24 April 2018

Pellegrini's farewell silent and suitably unemotional

Swansea 1 Man City1

Manchester City's Bacary Sagna battles for the ball with Swansea's Jordi Amat at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters
Manchester City's Bacary Sagna battles for the ball with Swansea's Jordi Amat at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero in action against Swansea's Federico Fernandez. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters
Swansea City's Jordi Amat and Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match at the Liberty Stadium. Photo: David Davies/PA
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini applauds fans at the end of his last match in charge. Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

Sam Wallace

As his last public act as Manchester City manager, Manuel Pellegrini's decision to remove his club jacket and hand it to a supporter in the away end was about as demonstrative as it got from the man who has mostly kept his feelings deep below the surface for the last three years,

Handed, not thrown, one should emphasise, as if he were dropping it off at a cloakroom, before he returned in shirt sleeves and waistcoat to the sanctuary of the changing rooms without much of a look over his shoulder.

He might have just qualified for the Champions League at the expense of Manchester United, but Pellegrini was not about to let his emotions get the better of him at this low-key farewell.

His final press conference was an occasionally tetchy affair. He refused to offer any hint as to where his career will take him next, and he defended his record of amassing more points than any Premier League club over the last three years. On Pep Guardiola, he said simply that his successor will be a "successful manager" but reiterated that they had no plans to meet.

He smiled when he was asked if he had remembered to remove his wallet and phone from his pockets, which he did after Yaya Toure persuaded him to hand over some memento to the supporters. But that was about it as this brooding, private man took his leave of one of English football's super-powers.

He said he was "proud" of his players for dealing with what he considered was the pressure of not knowing their future under their new manager. As for Guardiola, he said that the new Manchester City manager "knows perfectly this club, he has friends inside here".

He added: "I don't think he is especially lucky that the team he inherits will be in the Champions League. The last five seasons this team has always been in the Champions League. The last 37 weeks we have been in the Champions League places. We just had to make sure that we stayed there until the end."

The Guardiola era can begin at last at City, though his new club demonstrated again just why they seek fresh direction under their new manager. Barring a 19-goal victory margin for Louis van Gaal's Manchester United when they play Bournemouth in their rearranged game tomorrow night, City will take the last Champions League place - although they made hard work of it once again.

They got a point against a Swansea team a long way from the strongest at Francesco Guidolin's disposal following his decision to rest Lukasz Fabianski, Ashley Williams and Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Guidolin acknowledged the fans who sang his name, and made mention of it later. Their 12th-place finish means they are a long way from danger, but having managed eighth place 12 months ago and ended up sacking Garry Monk, they know nothing can be taken for granted.

City took the lead through Kelechi Iheanacho in the fifth minute, and they should have been out of sight by half-time.

Sigurdsson's absence told in the lack of expertise with which Swansea's dead-ball situations were executed and the signs were that the one that led to the equaliser would be different. Leroy Fer's decoy run seemed only to confuse the man himself and Andre Ayew hit the ball into the defensive wall, but it took such a hefty deflection that Hart had no chance.

Iheanacho had a second half in which nothing much went right, although his team were hardly operating at their best, either. His last act was to fall over-hitting a shot before being replaced by Samir Nasri.

City barely had an attempt after that and Pellegrini's last act was to send on Toure for what may be the last time in a Manchester City shirt.

Then Pellegrini took his leave, with little drama and only half his suit. © The Daily Telegraph


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