By Nick Mulvenney
MANUEL Pellegrini had no sooner brought Manchester City their fourth English league title on Sunday than he was plotting the acquisition of more silverware – and the Chilean wants to do it in style too.
The first manager from outside Europe to win England’s most prestigious trophy, Pellegrini was tossed in the air in celebration by his players after their 2-0 win over West Ham United
sealed the title.
Those same players, described by some as millionaire mercenaries attracted to the Etihad Stadium by Abu Dhabi oilmoney alone, queued up to pay fulsome tribute to their manager.
“I’m so happy for the manager because it’s his first title in Europe. He remained calm. It was a pleasure to work for him,” said Samir Nasri, who scored the opening goal.
“It’s an amazing feeling. It’s my second league in three years. It was an amazing league all year. Everyone put his ego on the side.”
Pellegrini will have to get used to the praise, his steady hand at the tiller credited with seeing City through the last few weeks of the season without the drama that marked their 2011-12 triumph.
What might have settled City nerves most, however, was the huge superiority in goal difference they enjoyed over Liverpool, which allowed them the luxury of needing only a draw in their final match of the season.
That advantage came from a campaign in which City scored 102 goals, one short of the Premier League record but one more than the much-vaunted Liverpool attack and a whopping 31 more than third-placed Chelsea.
The narrative of the Premier League title race was often presented as a battle of footballing philosophies between attack-minded Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers and Jose Mourinho’s more defensive approach at Chelsea.
Having beaten them both to the title, however, Pellegrini was quick to remind reporters that City’s record 156 goals in all competitions this season gave them a place in the debate.
“It’s not just winning titles that is important, but it’s the way you win them,” he told reporters in the post-match media conference.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, maybe it’s easy to score a goal and then go behind the ball.
“We have players to play on the counter-attack, they are fast and technical, but again, I’m not criticising the way other teams play, but if it was me, I wouldn’t be happy to win in that way.
“The fans enjoyed the whole season – we broke the records for the most goals scored by any team in England. It is the way we must play with the quality of players we have.”
Pellegrini admitted that everything in the dressing room had not been perfect when he arrived at City but was also quick to revert to his customary self deprecation.
“It’s a great honour to be the first manager from outside of Europe to win the title but I’m not the most important person,” the 60-year-old said.
“I think we all enjoyed this season – the players, me, the fans – because the team played very well, this is as important as winning the title.”
Claiming the Premier League title in his first year at City was also a step up for Pellegrini, who had failed to win the Spanish title in his one season at Real Madrid in 2009-10.
He earned that job on the back of the marvels he worked in taking Villareal into the top two in Spain and to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
It was repeating the trick at Malaga, who he took to fourth place in La Liga and the quarter-finals of the Champions League, that earned him his chance at City.
As his counterpart for much of the season at Manchester United will attest, however, many coaches have failed to step up from success at a smaller club to challenging at the business end of the season with one of Europe’s big-spending super clubs.
Pellegrini will now undoubtedly enjoy Monday’s parade around Manchester city centre but said he would soon be back to work preparing for next season.
“Big teams cannot be satisfied with one title. It’s very important,” he said.
“Celebrate today, tomorrow and Monday and on Tuesday start working for next season because this club and players deserve more titles.”