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GRACIAS MANUEL: Saluting our Charming Man

GRACIAS MANUEL: Saluting our Charming Man

It’s the end of an era for City as Manuel Pellegrini brought down the curtain on his three-year tenure with a 1-1 draw at Swansea on Sunday afternoon.

To mark the occasion, we look back at five of the Chilean’s best moments in the hot-seat.

Stand by your man…

There were plenty of calls for Manuel to start Joe Hart in the Capital One Cup final against Liverpool at cup goalkeeper Willy Caballero’s expense but the Chilean stood by his man in March.

That a ‘keeper as good as Willy didn’t let him down is no surprise but no-one could have foreseen the extent to which the Argentine repaid his manager’s faith.

Following a solid performance across 120 minutes, Caballero enjoyed the kind of penalty shootout that goalkeepers dream of, saving three successive spot-kicks from Lucas Leiva, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana to give Pellegrini the third trophy of his reign.

Caballero’s emotive celebrations are sure to be one of the enduring images of the season and his manager could not have been any happier as one of his squad players seized his opportunity on one of the biggest stages.

“I prefer to lose the final than to go back on my word,” Pellegrini declared after the game.

“There was never any chance Willy was not going to play. I think my word is more important than football.”

Lionhearted City tame Tigers…

Having bowed out of the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in the space of seven days, we arrived at the KC Stadium in March 2014 with morale on the floor.

When Vincent Kompany was sent-off after ten minutes, it felt like we were in for another punishing afternoon but Manuel had a plan, converting midfielder Javi Garcia into a centre back and bring David Silva back into the midfield from his no.10 position.

Both Martin Demichelis and Garcia had been criticised in the weeks leading up to the game but their lionhearted makeshift centre back partnership was rock solid and laid the foundations for a priceless win on City’s march to the Premier League title.

Silva netted three minutes after Kompany’s sending off and Edin Dzeko scored in the last minute to secure the points but it was Demichelis and Garcia who stole the headlines, repelling wave after wave of Tigers’ attacks, as well as catching Nikola Jelavic and Shane Long offside on multiple occasions.

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Breaking Ground…

No Premier League manager has won more silverware in the time Manuel has been in England and he also boasts the best win percentage in the Club’s history.

He’s also the man who has taken City further in Europe’s premier club competition than they’ve ever gone before, taking us out of the group stages for the first time, winning a group for the first time, winning a knockout tie for the first and second time, before leading us to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League.

To get us there, Manuel showed his tactical acumen on a number of occasions with a whole host of astute, innovative flourishes paving the way for unprecedented progress, the impact of which could be felt for generations to come.

From bespoke “outside-of-the-box” variations, such as fielding Fernandinho as a centre-back and as a right attacking midfielder to the more ambient, overarching tactical ideas, such as the masterful, patient approach to the second leg win over PSG, Manuel has employed a variety of gameplans to enable us to reach these new frontiers.

Contrast that PSG win to the “shock and awe” of Sevilla away and you can see the full range of the palate Pellegrini has painted from in that ground-breaking European run.

Thanks to his spells at Malaga and Villarreal, Manuel was seen as a European specialist coming into the job in 2013 and, three years later, he can certainly say that he lived up that lofty billing.

The Rise of Kelechi…

Ten Academy products have been handed their debuts by Pellegrini in 2015/16.

Tosin Adarabioyo, Angelino, Brandon Barker, Bersant Celina, George Evans, David Faupala, Aleix Garcia, Manu Garcia, Cameron Humphreys and Kelechi Iheanacho have all taken their bows in Manuel’s final season.

Undeniably, the one who has enjoyed the most rapid ascent is Iheanacho, who has emerged as one of the Premier League’s most exciting teenagers, finishing his breakthrough season as City’s third top scorer with 14 goals in all competitions.

It’s a sign of his manager’s increased faith in the Nigerian starlet that, from infrequently coming off the bench as a late substitute earlier on the campaign, he finished off the season starting four successive Premier League games and was on the pitch for the majority of the two legs of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.

Kelechi took to Twitter after scoring on the final day against Swansea to thank Manuel for the faith he’d shown in him.

The Bumps…

City successfully ran down Liverpool in the race for the 2013/14 Premier League title, finishing the season with 86 points and an incredible return of 102 league goals.

It was a triumph founded on the attacking, attractive principles Manuel has employed throughout his long and distinguished managerial career as he became the first South American coach to win the English league title and secured a league and cup double.

The scenes after full-time when Pellegrini was hoisted into the air by his squad will live long in the memory and told you everything you need to know about the esteem “This Charming Man” is held in by those who play for him.

Gracias, Manuel.

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