Manuel Pellegrini deserves praise and credit for the glory Manchester City are currently enjoying. His influence paved the way for City’s astounding impact on European football.
The number of Manchester City tickets sold each season and the atmosphere that envelops the Etihad Stadium is in part because of the impact Manuel Pellegrini had on the club, which made them ready to take the next step under Pep Guardiola.
Pellegrini is currently the manager of Spanish side Real Betis, who sit seventh in the La Liga table. Manchester City fans fondly remember the boss from Chile for his achievements at the Etihad Stadium. The City board announced the departure of Pellegrini in 2016, with Pep Guardiola announced as the incoming head coach.
Guardiola has since taken the Citizens to new heights, and there is no denying that he has surpassed any high that any manager at Manchester City has achieved. But, while acknowledging the greatness of Guardiola, people often forget the groundwork that Pellegrini laid. Today, we look back at the highlights of former boss and how it impacted the current City side.
Pellegrini’s arrival in 2013 was not on the back of a successful season. City had a disappointing campaign compared to their high standards. City ended up runners-up in the Premier League to Manchester United, exited the League Cup at an early stage, and suffered a disappointing group stage exit from the Champions League. Finally, a shocking defeat to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final signed the departure papers of Roberto Mancini.
City needed a change of manager, but more so, they needed a change of approach and wanted a man who could instil a winning mentality. Pellegrini took the onus on himself to take City from a side that was good at competing to a side that could win titles, thus seeing records tumble in the 2013/14 season.
City, under Pellegrini, set new records as they became the fastest club in the Premier League to reach 100 goals in all competitions in a campaign. The goals didn’t stop coming as they broke Manchester United’s record for the most goals in a single season. They set the record by scoring 156 times in all competitions.
With the Blues, it was always about their performance at European level. With a disappointing group stages exit the previous season, Pellegrini attained new ground as his side made it through the group stages. City made it out of the group containing Bayern Munich, Viktoria Plzen, and CSKA Moscow, a feat that the cub took confidence from. City fans fondly remember the dream night at Allianz Arena, where they came back from two goals down to defeat Bayern Munich 3-2.
Unfortunately, due to inferior goal difference, City could not attain top spot and it cost them as they faced Barcelona in the round of 16. The step of overtaking Barcelona was too big, and the La Liga giants won 4-1 on aggregate.
The end of the Champions League campaign did not put a dent in City’s domestic competitions. The Blues rose to the occasion and won the Premier League and League Cup in the first season under Pellegrini. It was the first time City enjoyed a league and League Cup double since the 1969/70 campaign.
Pellegrini’s second season at the helm did not go well and the Blues exited in the round of 16 of the Champions League once again. After also failing to retain the Premier League or League Cup, the lack of silverware made the owners uncomfortable.
Pellegrini admitted that the City board had clarified that they were keen on working with Guardiola, even before his own appointment at the club. The sporting directors had previously worked with Guardiola in Barcelona and wanted to work with him in Manchester. However, Guardiola took up the Bayern Munich role that season, and it was made clear to Pellegrini that if not Pep, then he would be the only choice for the manager position.
If we talk about the modern success of Manchester City, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling had a significant role in it. Pellegrini signed both these players in the 2015/16 pre-season and they continued to thrive under Guardiola later on.
In February of that season, Manchester City were chasing Leicester City in the Premier League and the Foxes had a lead of three points over Pellegrini’s side. The City Football Group, eyeing change, decided to approach Guardiola. Pellegrini knew that his time was running out, and for him to leave a legacy, he knew he had to focus on European glory to etch his name in the history of the club as the first manager to win the Champions League.
City had already won the League Cup, and the Premier League was put behind Europe as a priority. The Blues reached new heights in the Champions League campaign, reaching the semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history. City could not taste the final of Europe’s elite competition as a narrow defeat to Real Madrid saw their hopes of European glory fade away. However, this semi-final spot and, more importantly, the experience of winning knockout games laid the groundwork for Guardiola to polish upon in the future, as they won the UEFA Champions League in the 2022/23 season.
So, for City fans, they look back at the tenure of Pellegrini with a smile. They understand the importance of those knockout wins in Europe, which announced Manchester City as a significant force for the future seasons. Many fans appreciate that some of the credit for the current glory days of the club should be bestowed upon Pellegrini.
Guardiola took a season to make a mark at the Etihad, and it would have taken a lot more than just a season but for Pellegrini’s era. The transition period for City did not last long as the players signed under Pellegrini, including De Bruyne, Sterling and Fernandinho, became a crucial part of Guardiola’s side.
Guardiola did not see City as a club that he could elevate and push to greatness in 2013. But after three years, with the work done by Pellegrini, the Catalan boss was ready to take up the challenge. Guardiola understood that City were ready to take the next step.