Reshuffle at City piles pressure on Mancini
MANCHESTER CITY 1 SWANSEA CITY 0
ROBERTO MANCINI has suffered a blow to his power base at Manchester City, with Txiki Begiristain's appointment as the club's director of football reducing the Italian's role to that of first-team coach.
City's chief executive Ferran Soriano, who was recruited from Barcelona this summer, has driven the move to appoint Begiristain -- the Catalan club's former technical director, with whom he worked for three years building success at the Nou Camp.
Mancini will now find himself below these two very close allies -- and third in City's new "pyramid of excellence".
In a further setback, the City manager is still waiting to hear the extent of the serious knee injury suffered by Micah Richards in their home win against Swansea City.
Far from representing victory for Mancini in his battle to exercise greater control than Brian Marwood, who becomes managing director of City's new £200m football academy, the appointment of Begiristain leaves the Italian able only to recommend which players City might buy.
With the academy as instrumental to City's future as La Masia has been for Barcelona, Marwood's move should not be seen as a demotion.
The sensitive nature of Begiristain's appointment within the present management structure may explain why the 48-year-old Spaniard's appointment was slipped out at midnight on Saturday by City, who denied the story last week.
Though Mancini has openly challenged the authority of Marwood and Cook, Soriano believes deeply in clearly defined management structures and will certainly expect Mancini to conform to the new set-up.
When Begiristain drew up a nine-point criteria document for Soriano to enable Barcelona to find a successor to Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona, the first requirement on the list was a need to "respect the sporting management model and the role of the football director".
The document stipulated that "the director of football has the power of the final decision".
Eliminated from the League Cup, Mancini will have a full week to regroup and gather his thoughts on the appointment of Begiristain.
He certainly gave no indication of the new structure in the aftermath of the Swansea game, which brought some respite from the criticism that followed the Champions League defeat by Ajax.
"After all that has been said in the last few days, I thought we were in last position in the Premier League," Mancini said. "But I have just looked at the table and we are second."
Nevertheless, the injury to Richards, who was carried off on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask, is another blow to an area of the team that already looks weak.
Richards may have been vocal in his criticism of City's tactics during last Wednesday's 3-1 debacle in Amsterdam but on the only other occasion the champions have kept a clean sheet -- last month's 3-0 win over Sunderland -- he had looked once more an international-class defender. There is still far too much resting on Vincent Kompany's shoulders for City to be entirely comfortable.
The champions were booed off at the interval, with Joe Hart having made a brave save to deny Michu, who had the only serious chance of an insipid 45 minutes.
Having been criticised for altering his formations too much in Amsterdam, Mancini made a good tactical switch at half-time.
Aleksandar Kolarov, who had been mostly ineffective on the wing anyway, was withdrawn with a foot injury and Mancini changed the shape by sending on forward Mario Balotelli.
City began to look more cutting but, even so, it still needed another good save by Hart from Michu to keep it scoreless before Tevez struck on the hour.
With the 12 minutes of stoppage time for injuries to Richards and the Swansea 'keeper, Michel Vorm, it will be remembered as the longest game in the history of the Premier League. (© Independent News Service)