Roberto Mancini says Manchester City still the best team in the Premier League
Italian says City should win a title every year
Manuel Pellegrini under growing pressure at club
City faces Barcelona in Champions League on Wednesday
Roberto Mancini says he carries Manchester City’s supporters in his heart – but there’s not much love being shown towards the man who replaced him as manager of the Premier League champions.
Manuel Pellegrini is a man feeling the heat – and the current City manager has come under fire from his predecessor just 24 hours after insisting he is not under pressure to win a trophy every season.
Mancini, the man who led Manchester City to its first Premier League title in 44 years back in 2012 says Pellegrini is “lucky” to have inherited the side he left behind after being sacked exactly a year to the day since winning England’s top division.
Pellegrini, who led City to the domestic title last season, is under fire with City trailing Chelsea by six points in the league and facing elimination in the European Champions League.
“I think Pellegrini was really lucky because he got this team that is a strong team and he has a chance to put in more good players,” Inter Milan coach Mancini told CNN’s Don Riddell on the eve of City’s crucial game with Barcelona in the Champions League.
“I think City can win a title every year and have a chance – it should and must try to win a title every year.”
Nicknamed “the Engineer,” Pellegrini has seen the wheels come off his side’s title charge in recent weeks.
The Chilean is reportedly on the brink with his team having apparently surrendered its Premier League title with another meek showing in the 1-0 defeat by minnow Burnley last weekend.
His team have managed just three victories in their past 11 games – its season could be more or less over by tomorrow night.
City faces a daunting task to reach the last eight of the European Champions League – a competition it has struggled in despite spending $482 million on players since the start of the 2011-12 season.
It must overturn a 2-1 deficit against Barcelona at Camp Nou on Wednesday after being outplayed for the majority of the home fixture.
Only once in nine attempts has Barcelona won the first leg of a two-legged Champions League knockout tie and not progressed.
Pellegrini has spent heavily since arriving at City but a number of those purchases have failed to impress.
Eliaquim Mangala, who arrived from Porto for $47million has endured a dismal first season in English football, while $32million man Stevan Jovetic has also struggled to make an impression since arriving from Fiorentina.
“It’s my opinion that City is the best team in the Premier League,” said Mancini. “It’s in second and six points behind Chelsea but I think it’s the best team.
“In the Premier League anything can happen right up to the last game, in the last minute,” perhaps a nod to City’s last gasp English Premier League title win in 2012, thanks to Sergio Aguero’s stoppage time winner against Queens Park Rangers.
“I think they should think that they have a chance to win the title.”
Mancini, who replaced Mark Hughes in December 2009, enjoyed great success during his three-and-half-year tenure.
He led the club to the FA Cup in 2011 before winning the league title the following season.
Under Mancini, the club attracted star players such as Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli, David Silva and Aguero.
He signed a new five-year deal with the club in July 2012 but results dipped with rival Manchester United regaining the league title and City suffering a shock FA Cup final defeat by Wigan.
Mancini was criticised for his side’s lack of success in the Champions League, where the failure to negotiate the group stage playing a key role in the decision to relieve him of his duties.
The Italian, 50, was also involved in a series of high-profile disagreements with Carlos Tevez, the Argentina striker, which cast doubts over his ability to handle the big names in the City squad.
In the 12 Champions League ties under his stewardship, City managed just three victories – a damning indictment on the team’s failure on the European stage.
At the time of his sacking, the club said that Mancini failed to hit “stated targets” and that it wanted to “develop a holistic approach to all aspects of football”.
“I had a fantastic time in England,” he added.
“We won the Premier League after many years. I have all City’s supporters in my heart and all those moments in my head because it is impossible to forget this.
“Maybe I miss the Premier League because I worked there for three-and-a-half years. I built the team that is now in second position.
“I think they play with the same players and I am very proud of this.”
Mancini faces a struggle of his own at Inter with the club unlikely to qualify for European competition next season.
Inter is eighth in Serie A and is eight points off the qualifying places for the Europa League.
It faces German side Wolfsburg in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday having lost the first leg 3-1.