Humbling final failure brings embarrassing end to Mancini era at Manchester City

The Italian watched his side lose out in the FA Cup final after Ben Watson's late header amid reports that he will be replaced by Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini this summer
By Greg Stobart at Wembley

The Manchester City fans sang Roberto Mancini's name through the driving Wembley rain but an embarrassing FA Cup final defeat to Wigan surely signals the end of the Italian's three-and-a-half-year reign.

Just 12 months after guiding the club to their first league title in 44 years, this was an ignominious end for Mancini, apparently the only man in the stadium not to believe reports that City's hierarchy have already lined up Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini as his replacement.

84' RED! Zabaleta is sent off
90+1' GOAL! Watson heads home

A superb performance from the winger as City failed to handle his movement and trickery. Had Gael Clichy on toast and almost scored in the first half but curled his shot just wide of the far post.
There are echoes of the way in which Mancini himself replaced Mark Hughes in 2009, with chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain having decided that the Chilean would be better entrusted with the riches of City's Abu Dhabi owners.

And this was why; a spineless, sodden performance lacking ideas, energy or craft. Wigan were more organised, fitter, more incisive and more hungry. Roberto Martinez's side had to wait for Ben Watson's last-gasp header to make their superiority count but they were the better side throughout the afternoon.

The core concerns surrounding Mancini have been about his poor record in the Champions League and his difficult relationship with a number of key players but performances like this have been the tipping point.

A wonderful story for Wigan, yes, but this was a humiliating defeat against a team likely to suffer relegation to the Championship this season and assembled at a fraction of the cost of City's squad of highly paid stars.

Mancini will always be the man who brought success to the club, the man who beat Fergie in Fergie time.

Yet Sheikh Mansour wanted the FA Cup victory in 2011 and Premier League triumph a year later to signal the start of something special, the dawning of an era of domestic and European domination in east Manchester.

Mancini's response to the Pellegrini reports in his post-match press conference was as half-hearted as his side's performance here at Wembley and, indeed, throughout a season in which they are 10 points behind champions Manchester United.

"The only thing is you've been speaking about this for six months and too much in the last two weeks," said the disgruntled Italian. "I don't know why the club didn't stop this because I don't think this is true.

"If it's true, I'm stupid because I didn't know anything about this."

His decision to openly criticise the club is understandable; he deserves more respect.

Somehow, though, you feel that the time is right for Mancini to leave.

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The players look jaded, the tactics are defensive and unambitious. It was Wigan, through the likes of James McCarthy and Callum McManaman, who played the free-flowing tiki-taka football.

Pablo Zabaleta, City's best player over the course of the campaign, was sent off for two yellow cards, both late, reckless fouls on McManaman, the Wigan winger who teased and tormented with his balance, drive and delivery.

The manner of the Argentine's bookings were symptomatic of a City performance in which they were not at the races, miles off the pace. It was reminiscent of the club's woeful performances in the Champions League under Mancini, in which they have failed to progress from the group stages in the last two seasons.

Mancini, one last time, was tactically outwitted in a big game while he has never been the type of manager who gets close to his players, always demanding more from his men and often choosing to publicly criticise poor performances.

The board have decided that Pellegrini is the man to lead phase two of City's grand plan.

It is a sad end for Mancini. The 30,000 City fans at Wembley made it clear that his impact will never be forgotten but, unlike Zabaleta's tackles, the timing is right for a change.

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