Barely a month after guiding Manchester City to their first Premier League title in 44 years, Roberto Mancini was at loggerheads with the clubs football administrator Brian Marwood. Transfer activities were slow at Etihad, which irked the Citys Italian manager. Mancini wanted Robin van Persie, Daniele De Rossi, Javi Martinez and Eden Hazard to shore up the squad and build on the foundation. He got Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Matija Nastasic and Jack Rodwell instead. And except Rodwell, all were rushed buyings.
Faced with a reported loss of 197 million last year, the club administration was reluctant to loosen the purse strings. Van Persie (24m), De Rossi (30m), Hazard, (32m) and Martinez (32m) would have been very expensive. So the management decided to provide Mancini with some utility players, spending half the amount.
Mancinis frustration was understandable. As the manager he is solely responsible for the teams performance and after the success last season, expectations are very high. But he didnt get a team of his choice, while the other top clubs added to their strengths. And after a stuttering start to their title defence and an early exit from the League Cup, he once again blamed the summer transfer strategy.
After first five matches, City are placed seventh in the League standings with nine points, four points behind the leaders Chelsea. More importantly, they have already conceded 14 goals in all competitions. Its early days, but there are ominous signs that a repeat of Poznan might not be seen in the blue half of City at the end of the season. Mancini knows the League title notwithstanding, like most other managers, he too is always walking the line in a world which could be very ruthless. In a club spurred by Arab money, he will have to keep producing success to be safe. Mancini has a lot in common with Jose Mourinho. Both are plying their trades away from home and are extremely successful at club level. The self-styled special one, however, has the remarkable achievement of winning two European Cups for two different clubs, while Mancini is yet to make a mark in the Champions League football. But the two share a common philosophy.
Football is not about yesterday or today. It is about tomorrow, Mourinho said the other day. Mancini too believes that and that is why he wanted to go on a shopping spree this summer. He wanted to make his side invincible, better than their more celebrated neighbours at Old Trafford.
For all their success last season, City are yet to knock United off their perch. This is despite the fact that Sir Alex Fergusons men didnt win anything last year. Its harder staying on top than getting there, Ferguson has always maintained. The man who has set an example about how to manage top stars also confessed that he always found it difficult to manage a successful dressing room than the one which is hungry for success. Big players have big egos and Mancini has learnt this the hard way.
His spat with Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli had split the dressing room. It also raised question marks over his authority. Tevez was sent back home after he refused to come off the bench during a Champions League fixture. In Balotellis case, the manager failed to control the young man's temper on and off the pitch. In both cases, Mancini had to eventually backtrack and accommodate the players in the team. At Old Trafford, it would have been unthinkable, but Mancini, being a practical man, understood that no other manager in the world enjoys the power and authority that Ferguson is lucky to have. Mancini had to compromise last season to help his team win the Premier League.
But this year he was forced to compromise to keep his employer happy. Pressure seems to be telling on this 48-year-old. Far too often he is getting involved in the touchline bust-ups.
He had altercations with David Moyes and Mark Hughes, and in April this year he confronted with Ferguson. The two managers had to be separated after an explosive finger-jabbing row during a highly charged encounter.
Last week it was against Paul Lambert of Aston Villa during a League Cup tie. Mancini feels he is still being considered as an outsider in England and is very tired with the behaviour of the opposing managers.
He has a similarity with Mourinho in this regard as well. Despite Real Madrid's La Liga triumph last season, Mourinho has repeatedly said that he didn't feel at home in Spain. After a poor start to the new season he described himself as the guilty one. Real have already lost twice and drew once in their first five matches of the La Liga and are eight points adrift of arch-rivals Barcelona. And the Real dressing room is fractious with Cristiano Ronaldo sad and the Spanish players in the team are not seeing eye-to-eye with their manager. At Chelsea it was different. Mourinho had the support of his players at Stamford Bridge, which helped him win back-to-back Premier League titles.
But owner Roman Abramovich was still not happy as he had built the squad with the intention to win the European Cup and successive failures in the continent saw the Portuguese lose his job.
Mourinhos present contract with Real ties him to the club till 2016, while Mancinis contract with City runs till the summer of 2017. But both of them know very well that if the owners are not happy then they will be shown the door.
Mourinho, however, enjoys a bigger status than his Manchester City counterpart. English clubs will line up to have him on board as and when he leaves Spain. Mourinho sees the United job as his Holy Grail, a position that is likely to fall vacant in two-three years time when Ferguson will decide to move upstairs.
Mancini doesnt have Mourinhos reputation. He still has to prove that the last seasons success was not just a flash in the pan. He needs to win the Champions League to become an elite. Coaches often find it hard to tackle the second season blues and this is the reason why this year it is going to be so important for the suave and sophisticated Italian.