After one try Pellegrini has managed to achieve what Mancini could not in two attempts: progression past the Champions League group stages. What is even more impressive is the fact he has overseen a defeat against the best football club in the world at the moment: Bayern Munich.
Dissenters of Pellegrini as well as supporters of the Mancini regime may point towards several mitigating factors:
- Under Mancini, Manchester City had extremely difficult groups - indeed this is true, in the 2011/12 edition City faced: Bayern Munich, Napoli and Ajax. Last season City faced: Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax once more. However, the group City found themselves in is arguably just as difficult as the one they faced in 2011. As good as Bayern Munich were then, they have reached new heights ever since - let us not forget in the 2011/12 season they capitulated against Dortmund in the league and domestic cup; and also against Chelsea in the Champions League final. Furthermore, while Napoli back then (and now) are a better team CSKA Moscow, trips to Russia can be particularly daunting. While I will accept the difficultly of last seasons group is as tough as it gets, the fact Mancini failed to net a solitary victory in that group should indicate how far beyond his depth he was.
- Both Pellegrini and Mancini defeated Bayern and on paper Mancini's 2-0 victory dwarfs Pellegrini's 3-2 victory - Nevertheless, when Mancini's City beat Bayern, Bayern had already qualified top of their group, consequentially they played a severely weakened team. Furthermore, Mancini beat a weakened Bayern Munich at the Ettihad, whereas Pellegrini beat a strong Bayern looking to consolidate top spot at the Allianz arena - no doubt the bigger feat belongs to Pellegrini.
- Lazio 2003/04 - Last in group stage (Winning only one match)
- Inter Milan 2004/04 - Quarter Finals (Knocked out by AC Milan
- Inter Milan 2005/06 - Quarter Finals (Knocked out by Pellegrini's Villarreal)
- Inter Milan 2006/07 - Last 16 (Knocked out by Valencia)
- Inter Milan 2007/08 - Last 16 (Knocked out by Liverpool)
- Villarreal 2005/06 - Semi Finals (Knocked out by Arsenal)
- Villarreal 2008/09 - Quarter Finals (Knocked out by Arsenal)
- Real Madrid 2009/10 - Last 16 (Knocked out by Lyon)
- Malaga 2012/13 - Quarter Finals (Knocked out by Borussia Dortmund)
On three occasions with teams on small budgets (Villarreal and Malaga), Pellegrini managed to upset the apple cart. In 2006 and just last season, he was a whisker away from taking his respective sides to final and semi-finals. The reason for Pellegrini's success is his ability to extract the best out of his players. At Villarreal he was able to turn Marcos Senna (a previous journeyman in Brazil) into a world player; and save Riquelme's descent from Barcelona (yes he briefly played for Barcelona), turning him into a player who rivaled Ronaldinho and Zidane who the title of best playmaker.
It was more of the same at Malaga where he resurrected the careers of Julio Baptista, Joaquin, Saviola and Jeremy Toulalan. He is also turned a previous no hoper like Will Caballero into a potential World Cup starter for Argentina and nurtured Isco into the player thriving at Real Madrid.
He is at it again as the performances of Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure have recently spiked. Compare this to the style of Mancini who has frequently caused fights and arguments everywhere he went. This was most apparent when he launched several attacks at: Hart, Kompany, Nasri, Tevez, the whole Man City strike-force and who could forget this: