So, it’s finally happened.
After months, nay, years of speculation, Manchester City have today officially confirmed that Pep Guardiola will take over from Manuel Pellegrini as manager of the club from the beginning of next season.
City had been strong favourites to land Guardiola’s signature for some time, the opportunity for him to link up with Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, his friends and former Barcelona colleagues, being seen as the deciding factor in him choosing the Blues over other potential suitors when he leaves Bayern Munich at the end of this season.
Of course, that didn’t stop journalists and rival supporters from suggesting he would (and, in some cases, should) instead opt to join Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea and for a while it was a rumour that seemed a little bit too good to be true.
But it was true, and now it’s out in the open we can all look forward to an exciting future under the guidance of arguably the world’s finest football manager.
The appointment of Guardiola is undoubtedly City’s biggest coup of the Sheikh Mansour era. Since 2008, some wonderful players and some very competent managers have come and gone, but none of them arrived in Manchester with the same level of expectation as that which surrounds the Spaniard.
City have been building for next season and beyond since as early as 2012 (when, if today’s official statement is anything to go by, they first attempted to lure Pep to the club).
It’s no secret that emulation of the style of football and the success Guardiola achieved in his four years at Barcelona is City’s blueprint for the future. The off-field infrastructure has been firmly in place for some time but until now, the sense that a key component of what the club hopes to achieve on the pitch was missing has been a tough one to shake.
Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
When Guardiola officially takes the reins on 30th June, he will bring with him an entertaining, possession-based style of football (much, much more on that here) along with a wealth of experience at the highest level and bags of charisma. Success is something which can never be guaranteed in football but if you’d back one man to be able to take City to the next level, it’d have to be Pep.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the 1st of February 2016 could prove to be as big a landmark event in the history of Manchester City Football Club as the 1st of September 2008 was. It could even be bigger.
But don’t get too carried away with yourselves City fans, because there are many people out there who couldn’t be keener to stress that today isn’t necessarily what Ice Cube would refer to as A Good Day.
First of all, there’s the “appalling” and “embarrassing” way with which outgoing manager Manuel Pellegrini has supposedly been treated.
Embarrassingly poor treatment of Pellegrini. Might as well have said: “We didn’t really want you then, so we’re getting rid of you now.”
— Simon Harrison @simonhfootball February 1, 2016
Such a tacky way for #MCFC to treat Pellegrini. Only manager in England on course for quadruple. Never understood the need to replace him.
— Matias Grez @matias_grez February 1, 2016
When Pellegrini took over from Roberto Mancini as City manager at the beginning of the 2013/14 season, it seemed more than a coincidence that the three year contract given to him just so happened to be the exact same length as that which Guardiola had just signed at Bayern Munich.
Pellegrini was set a target of five trophies in three years, after which time it was understood a decision would be made about his future.
That three year period will come to an end at the end of this season but the club has clearly made that decision a little earlier than expected and moved to secure the appointment of Pellegrini’s successor to boot. It seems very much like the sort of thing an extremely well run, professional organisation would do, right?
Wrong. According to some, City have handled this managerial change-over just as badly as they handled the sackings of Mark Hughes, Roberto Mancini and Frank Clark and to make matters worse, they’ve disrespected a man who doesn’t deserve to lose his job anyway.
Pellegrini has been a class act from day one of his tenure as City manager and has handled speculation surrounding his future with nothing other than absolute dignity and decorum. He’s won trophies and his team has, at times, been a joy to watch but there has always been a sense that he was something of an interim manager while the club awaited Guardiola’s availability.
City are, of course, still in with a shout of winning four trophies this season and if Pellegrini does leave with an unprecedented quadruple under his belt, there will perhaps be a few red faces around the corridors of the Etihad Stadium.
But to suggest that the club should have held off on appointing Guardiola on the extremely unlikely off-chance that Pellegrini might do what no manager has ever done before this season is, frankly, rather laughable.
Pellegrini himself may well feel a little hard done by but he’s a wise, experienced man who’s known the score since day one and it seems more likely that he’ll leave for pastures new safe in the knowledge that he gave a good account of himself during his time in Manchester and achieved what he set out to do. His work here has been appreciated and his part in ‘the project’ will never, ever be forgotten.
If the public outcry surrounding Pellegrini’s departure wasn’t bad enough, there are also those who would have us believe that Pep Guardiola is “overrated” anyway and his decision to join City is a cowardly one.
When he takes over at City he will of course be taking over at a club with vast resources who have everything in place for him to be a success. It’s easy to understand why people would think his is a false reputation built on what he’s achieved with outstanding groups of players at two of the biggest clubs in the world and accusations that he’s again taking the easy route by joining City perhaps aren’t entirely unjustified.
Pep is a coward. Why won’t he take job at a team that’s struggling and prove his worth.
— Rooney @Rooney_Red_Devi February 1, 2016
Pep turned us down when SAF resigned, he doesn’t have the balls to follow in his footsteps. Let City have the coward.
— MerlinUnited @MerlinUnited February 1, 2016
But it’s when people suggest that if Pep really wanted a challenge, he’d be better off going to Manchester United than City that it begins to get a little confusing. Aren’t United supposed to be the world’s biggest club? Didn’t their chief executive say they could sign any player in the world if they wanted to last summer? How would managing them be any less “cowardly” than managing City, exactly?
If Pep really wanted a challenge, he’d be better off going to Nottingham Forest, or maybe Preston North End. Instead, he’ll just have to make do with the simplest of tasks of turning lickle Citeh into a dominant force at home and abroad.
People can say and think what they want, but it won’t change the fact that Pep Guardiola will be the next manager of Manchester City FC.
What a time to be alive.
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Written by Dan Burke