HomeSportManuel Pellegrini’s a fantastic old coach

Manuel Pellegrini’s a fantastic old coach

There were a couple of moments of comic genius at St James’ Park last Sunday afternoon.


The first was when Alan Pardew thought Cheick Tiote was running to him as he celebrated what everyone believed was Newcastle’s equaliser against Manchester City. Pardew was getting ready to pucker up when Tiote sprinted straight past him into the arms of assistant boss John Carver.

The second was when a grey-haired veteran in his 50s abused someone else because of their age.

Pardew didn’t deserve an FA charge for swearing at Manuel Pellegrini, but he does deserve a medal for services to self-regard.

Aware, perhaps, of his reputation as a stooge for an unloved regime at St James’ Park, Pardew has made a habit of overdoing the crowd-pleasing antics on the touchline. He has developed an irritating custom of celebrating goals as if he had scored them himself.
He is a talented manager — of that, there is little doubt — but his smug tirade against Pellegrini, who is just eight years his senior, was another reminder of why many vilify him.

It is a shame he has found it so hard to keep his dignity because there have been times in his spell at Newcastle when he has sounded like a lone voice of reason in a madhouse.

He has good men around him, like Carver and Steve Stone, who speak highly of him. There are others who don’t.

“If he was made of chocolate, he’d eat himself,” an ex-Newcastle player told me yesterday.

It’s not new, but it does fit.

Anyway, let’s shut our noise about the Newcastle manager for a minute.
In all the fuss about what Pardew said, it has gone largely unmentioned that the “f*****g old c**t” in the opposite dug out is doing rather a good job.

Pellegrini was not a universally popular appointment in the summer.
Many City fans felt the club had acted too hastily in sacking Roberto Mancini, the man who had led them to their first league title for 44 years just 12 months earlier.

Mancini was more popular with the Blues’ supporters than with its players and when City made an inconsistent start to this season, many leapt to question the wisdom of Pellegrini’s appointment.

But in the last few months, those doubts have been swept away as City have at last begun to play as a team that is more than the sum of its parts.

Under Mancini, even when they won the title, it was always difficult to shake the suspicion that, with the talent they had, City really ought to be better.

Now, there are no caveats.

City may be big spenders, but under Pellegrini they are getting a lot of bang for their buck at last.

They are the best team to watch in the Premier League. Even allowing for tribal loyalties, there is not much doubt about that. Some of their football as they have swept a succession of top teams aside at the Etihad has been breathtaking.

City look as if they have been liberated by Pellegrini, who has turned them from a defence-first side into a swashbuckling attacking unit.

Before he was injured, Sergio Aguero was playing the best football of his time in Manchester and Alvaro Negredo, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure have all flourished.

Then there is Joe Hart.

Mancini seemed to work in the belief that the more his players despised him, the better they would play. He got some of them to despise him pretty well, but the performances didn’t always follow.
Pellegrini has adopted a more low-key, diplomatic, non-confrontational approach. When Hart’s form dipped and there was a week-to-week frenzy about whether he was going to be dropped, Pellegrini eventually took him out of the firing line.

He didn’t make a big deal of it. Didn’t make it personal. Just got on with business. And then, after a few weeks, when no one was really talking about it any more, Hart got his place back.

And at Newcastle on Sunday, the England goalkeeper kept City in a game they deserved to lose with a couple of crucial saves and a display of calm authority.

Pellegrini may be an ‘old c***’ but, if Pardew’s as smart as he apparently thinks he is, he should take a break from running his mouth.

Instead of screaming abuse at the City boss, maybe it might be an idea to learn from him.

After all, Pardew’s 52 now. Time’s marching on.

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