Mourinho is coming, but could Pellegrini make sense at Old Trafford?
Manuel Pellegrini is headed for the unemployment line. The ink isn’t dry on the Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City deal and the Chilean is out of a job when the Catalan begins work in June. With Manchester City’s last two performances it seems Pellegrini’s players have already checked out on him. It begs the question, with a fine managerial record behind him, where next for the affable Pellegrini; and could an unlikely move across the other side of Manchester benefit all?
Turning 63 in September, the former Real Madrid boss is likely to seek out one last job before heading into retirement after stints at the Bernabéu, Villarreal and Málaga. Pellegrini’s tenure with El Submarino Amarillo was a successful one – in his final campaign with the Valencian club he led them to a record setting second place.
Pellegrini’s record drew the attention of Florentino Pérez, who made the Chillean Real’s new manager in his second spell as Club President. Pellegrini oversaw Pérez’ record-setting expenditure as Kaká, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso arrived in the summer of 2009.
Despite achieving a record points total of 96 over the campaign, Pellegrini was relieved of his duties after finishing second to Barcelona. Los Merengues also under performed in the Champions League, being eliminated in the round of 16 by Lyon. The Chilean was left frustrated at not being able to build a balanced side in the era of Galaticos.
“I didn’t have a voice or a vote at Madrid. They sign the best players, but not the best players needed in a certain position,” he said.
“It’s no good having an orchestra with the 10 best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist. Real Madrid have the best guitarists, but if I ask them to play the piano they won’t be able to do it so well. Pérez sold players that I considered important. We didn’t win the Champions League because we didn’t have a squad properly structured to be able to win it.”
It is a sentiment with relevance to any chance of success on the red side of Manchester. Ed Woodward’s policy of trying to sign the world’s best players, whilst ignoring the team’s actual needs, might not please Pellegrini in the unlikely event he winds up at Old Trafford in the summer. The Chilean has operated best when he is able to build a team of his own making, something he might not be able to do at Old Trafford.
The thought of a City “reject” arriving at Old Trafford for infuriate many. The “noisy neighbours” tag – Sir Alex Ferguson’s terse dismissal of City’s rise – is at risk of swapping over from City to United with the arrival of Guardiola at the Etihad. Signing Pellegrini could be the final nail in that proverbial coffin. There is seemingly too much pride at stake for that to happen.
The imminent arrival of José Mourinho puts the concept of Pellegrini swapping Blue for Red in further doubt, of course. It now seems inevitable that Boardroom apprehension about appointing the former Chelsea boss will eventually subside, not least because of how fast Louis van Gaal’s team is sinking, and Mourinho will take over in June.
What Mourinho’s appointment means for Ryan Giggs remains to be seen, but the Welshman looks an unlikely candidate for the top job. United simply cannot take a risk on an unproven manager.
"With options running low, and Mauricio Pochettino perhaps not experienced enough to be a true contender, the position is increasingly likely to be Mourinho’s. But does Pellegrini have a case?"
After all, its not as if the veteran’s sides at City have been short of entertainment or success. Despite suffering some difficult draws in the Champions League, his side has consistently entertained in domestic competition. The Blues scored 100 goals in just 34 games in 2013/14, surpassing the record Chelsea set the season before – in eight fewer matches. Pellegrini has always found a way to attack, harnessing the best of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and company.
He is also focused on the long-term, once noting that he is not “interested in external ego but internal satisfaction. I’m not interested just in easy glory but in constructing something. Together we are trying to build a project that is not just short-term.”
Yet, his City side is also been tactically predictable, with Pellegrini often deploying the same system with the same strategy whatever the opposition. And given the vastly talented squad at his disposal, and the huge investment the Abu Dhabi regime has made, entertainment is the least Pellegrini should have delivered. The team has underachieved this season considering that City has the best squad in the Premier League. The title should be Pellegrini’s to lose given that rivals have struggled.
There might be far too many external factors that stop United from considering Pellegrini as a viable candidate in the summer, but there are a few reasons why Ed Woodward should not be too quick to dismiss the Chilean’s candidacy too. Pellegrini provides attacking football, wants to build a balanced team, and is open to deploying youth.
Yet, Pellegrini’s past, his lack of tactical variety, and United’s pride likely means that his next job will not be in the same city he resides in now.