So I’m back again to force my views on all things sport and right now the hottest topic in mainstream sports is the acquisition of Pep Guardiola by Manchester United. If you’re a football fan born in the 80s you will know that for decades the city of Manchester was dominated by red. So much so that upon acquiring their riches Sir Alex Ferguson referred to them as The Noisy Neighbors.
Around the time I’ll be honest enough to admit that I too understated the impact the new ownership would have on the English Premier League. “Maybe in 10 years they’ll win a league” I said around 2009. The club have won 2 EPL titles to add to the FA Cup of 2010 as well as the League Cup of 2014. The only thing missing is European success. The vision when Sheik Al Mansour took over was to turn the club into one of the global super clubs. His legacy as an owner was never going to be judged by domestic success, nearly a Billion Pounds has been spent on just acquiring talent.
So the noisy neighbors have become more than just noisy, this is akin to moving into a small townhouse in the middle of the most expensive neighborhood while property developers build your dream house. It wouldn’t be an overestimation to suggest that Manchester City are the top team in Manchester right now. Yes it will take them a millennium to catch up with Manchester United’s historical success but besides David De Gea and Anthony Martial it really would be difficult for anyone at Manchester United to regularly get a game at Manchester City. We live in the here and now and footballs worst kept secret (or best depending on what you believe and don’t believe) is now finally out. The head engineer was appointed a few years ago with the head quantity surveyor, landscaper and interior decorator. They’ve been on-site for a very long time and now finally, the lead architect has laced up his boots and is ready to get dirty.
“It’s not the most far fetched theory I’ve ever heard and Pellegrini’s reaction to the news also tells a story, he didn’t seem offended or surprised.” Andile
Yes, Pep Guardiola, the most coveted name in football management, the most successful manager of the past decade, the most successful manager of his generation will be replacing Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, not Manchester United. This will represent a blow of kidney shot proportions to all their competitors especially the neighbors who looked down on them for decades. Even more so because certain parts of united support would’ve held some hope that Louis Van Gaal has only kept his job and the managers’ seat warm for Pep Guardiola to arrive in the summer and bring back the good ol days. It’s rumored that Chelsea and Manchester United made late enquiries about Pep Guardiola but this was just to appease the fans it seems, Guardiola’s arrival at City has been very well planned and as United man myself it hurts me to admit. It may only have been communicated on the afternoon of 01 February but they have planned for this moment for a very long time.
Manchester City under Al Mansour have tended to get what they think they need. If you look at the transfers of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne it becomes very clear that they had a plan and they were uncompromising in their execution. Similarly to their courting of Guardiola’s predecessors, Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini at the time they had a head coach that they felt was not delivering on their vision and they were replaced by someone who they believed would. It’s ruthless, its cutthroat, it’s uncompromising but there is a clear vision. Anything that gets in the way of that will be cast aside, whether it’s playing staff or non-playing staff. Manchester City are everything that Manchester United in the post Sir Alex era are not. Chelsea are the same, if Roman Abramovich stops believing you can deliver on their vision you are shown the door and steps are taken to get resource into the club that will help to steer them back on track.
If we rewind back to Pep Guardiola’s final season at Barcelona where he built his growing legacy and reputation, Jose Mourinho has just won the Spanish league title, Chelsea had just knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League on their way to their first ever European Cup and Pep Guardiola has just announced that he will be taking a sabbatical to think about his next steps. Around the same time, 3 former Barcelona executives were employed by Manchester City, namely Ferran Soriano (current Chief Executive Officer), Txiki Beguiristain (current Director Of Football) and Rodolfo Borrel (current Global Technical Director). At the time, Manchester City had just won their first ever league title on goal difference and their inability to retain this league title is ultimately what cost Roberto Mancini his job as a Robin Van Persie inspired Manchester United won the title back. One of Soriano’s first difficult decisions to make was to fire the existing coach. There’s a belief that he was not in favour of the new structure and over time the lack of cohesion between management and coach started to show. The FA Cup final defeat to Wigan was the final nail in the coffin, but somehow I doubt even winning it would’ve saved him his job. The 3 wise men were adamant that Mancini was not the right man to deliver on their vision for the club despite having delivered their first league title since the 1950s.
So the foundations for Pep Guardiola’s arrival were laid down that summer of 2012, even before he had confirmed he would be replacing Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich in the summer of 2013. Pellegrini was chosen as Mancini’s replacement and one can hypothesise that his experience with Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga would prepare the squad for the eventual arrival of Pep Guardiola. It’s not the most far fetched theory I’ve ever heard and Pellegrini’s reaction to the news also tells a story, he didn’t seem offended or surprised. I mention this because he’s at the sharp end of what will effectively be his final season at City. The club have booked their seat in the final of the League Cup, they are in the 2nd round of the UEFA Champions League, are still in the top 3 in what’s turning out to be the most unpredictable EPL season in many years and finally are still in the FA Cup. It’s not unthinkable that Pep Guardiola could take over another club who have just won a treble as he did at Bayern Munich. But this for me again reinforces the fact that Manchester City are uncompromising when it comes to executing a plan. They are ruthless as Roberto Mancini was replaced after delivering the first pieces of silverware in the new era for the club and it seems Pellegrini’s fate will be similar. But on both occasions they got their man!
I’ll leave discussion about whether Pep will be successful in England for another day for now we just have to absorb these big news. The moment Guardiola confirmed he would be switching Germany for England, there were strong rumours that his mind is made up and he will be joining City. You can never really be sure until it’s announced and even after the announcement it’s still breaking news. Hence it can be termed as footballs worst and best kept secret. This may be the biggest coup for the league since the arrival of Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid. The noisy neighbours are no longer so noisy, they are now the ones calling local council to speak to the neighbours about their dirty yard!
“Andile Qokweni is hoping to be a regular contributor on the GritSport blog, he is an expert on arm-chair criticism and spends most of his free time watching sport on his couch and forcing his opinions on others.”