WIth Roberto Mancini sacked a year to the day since he claimed the Premier League title for Manchester City, there's been some predictable melancholy over his departure. The nature of that title win, however, allowed certain things to be overlooked. It was a last-minute winner in a moment of drama not seen since Michael Thomas vs Liverpool, but then Thomas' goal was, well, against Liverpool at Anfield, after a long war of attrition of a title race. City's was against a woeful Queens Park Rangers in the context of a race they'd thrown away once and were now doing their best to lose once again.
What that meant was that when Roberto Mancini decided to blame a lack of financial support for losing out on the Premier League title this season, it didn't ring true. It immediately smacked of ungratefulness -- seasoned excuse-makers like Harry Redknapp may point out that you should only deflect the blame onto your employer if you've actually already been sacked -- and was always going to be a laughable excuse from a man helming a side that had been accused of buying the league.
The argument was, apart from those hefty caveats, a simple one: Manchester United and Manchester City were almost inseparable, and United had gone out and bought Robin van Persie while City did not attract anyone of that calibre. What it covered up, however, was that City should have walked the title over United in the previous season in the first place. Before Van Persie's arrival, they had a better strikeforce to add to their vastly superior midfield, comparable defence and far greater creativity. It shouldn't have been a contest.
Mancini, however, allowed it to be. In citing Van Persie as the difference, Mancini also brought up a lack of goals from his side compared to the previous season, and yet Mario Balotelli was the only departure from the club's attacking ranks. At best, it was reason for City to tread water, and yet they appeared to go backwards.
For a defending champion to fall out of Europe entirely at the first hurdle and to never even be involved in a title challenge was always going to be potentially costly. The struggles of City's other, non-United rivals makes a trophyless season look even worse, and while Mancini may have endeared himself to the City fans, he gave no reason to keep him on. Since he was at City, he had never got the players performing at a level greater than the sum of their parts. He had never got the club to punch above its weight, and most crucially, he had never looked like the team was making any progress towards a longer-term goal.
One or two of those three things can be overlooked, but all three in what can only be considered a bad season was always likely to cost Mancini his job. Stability will make sense for City if they can get their existing players functioning more as a cohesive unit, but sticking with a manager who had twice shown himself as being incapable of that would have been a silly move indeed.