Manchester City Lack the Desire of Great United Sides

Published: 09th February 2015 09:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th February 2015 09:17 AM   |  A+A-

ManuelPellegrini_AP

As the years go by, the achievements of Sir Alex Ferguson seem to grow in stature. How he rebuilt his Manchester United team several times over, how he cleverly man managed his squad and how he won the title for the last time with perhaps the weakest group of the lot.

More than that, though, the most impressive feat, for me, was watching him go again after winning the Premier League by making sure his players did not ease off. Five times he did it, retain the title, by ensuring his team did not lose hunger.

Looking back, that achievement takes on an almost mystical quality, especially when measured against the recent struggles in this department of Manchester City. Where Roberto Mancini failed after City's memorable triumph in 2012, Manuel Pellegrini appears to be following suit.

With 14 games to go, seven points, granted, is not an insurmountable deficit. That said, Chelsea do not look in the mood to be handing over gifts, just as City do not look anything like potential champions just now.

For that, the buck clearly stops with Pellegrini, the man who may be straining the patience of those above. The experienced Chilean, after all, has overseen some very strange performances this season when discipline and motivation looked in short supply.

If the draw with Hull City on Saturday was lacklustre, getting knocked out of the Capital One Cup at home by a sub-strength Newcastle United team was mystifying, as was the decision to fly back late from Abu Dhabi before the FA Cup defeat against Middlesbrough.

The nadir for me, though, was a 21 Champions League defeat in November against a very average CSKA Moscow side when both Fernandinho and Toure got sent off after completely losing the plot. But then City recovered by memorably beating Roma to set up a last-16 date with Barcelona this month. So their season is far from over, at home or in Europe. An upturn in fortunes could yet lead to something special.

On the flip side, should City fall to Barcelona and Chelsea increase the gap, this ambitious club may feel the time is ripe for change. And it wouldn't help Pellegrini's cause that a possible successor already sits on the books.

Patrick Vieira is held in high regard. Very high. As head of City's elite development squad, the conscientious Frenchman is doing things the right way in learning his coaching trade out of the spotlight. In an ideal world, Vieira would probably want to gain a lot more experience, whether at City or somewhere else, before jumping in to a top job.

Sometimes, however, you cannot pick and choose. A chance arises that is impossible to refuse. And just like Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, the World Cup winner bears the stature, authority and charisma to succeed as a rookie on the big stage. Vieira is certainly an option were City to make a change, whether in the summer or a little earlier.

For now, though, Pellegrini is entrusted with the job of kicking some backsides, starting with the tricky trip to Stoke City on Wednesday. By winning two league titles in four years, City have finally moved out of United's shadow. Yet emulating Ferguson's ability to maintain desire has proved a little harder for the two men involved.

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