Roberto Mancini on Manchester City’s success: “I built this team”

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Some could accuse ex-Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini of sour grapes with his latest comments, but does the Italian manager have a point?

Mancini, 49, is the current boss of Turkish giants Galatasaray and has guided the Istanbul club into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League this season. That’s something he never managed at City and ultimately was what cost him his job at the Etihad last season.

The Italian boss is still a cult figure in the blue half of Manchester after delivering City’s first-ever Premier League title in 2011-12 but when asked about City’s current success under new manager Manuel Pellegrini, Mancini wanted to remind everyone that he out the building blocks in place.

“I’m happy that Manchester City is one of the best teams in England because I built this team,” Mancini said in an interview with the BBC. “The players that score the goals are players that I bought – Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri.”

It seems like Roberto wants a little bit of love. And he does deserve credit for building one of the most ruthless attacking teams the PL has ever seen. In 35 games this season City have scored a staggering 106 goals. In Mancini’s final season in charge of City, they scored just 66 goals in 38 PL games. This season the Pellegrini’s City have already scored 63 goals… and they’ve only played 22 PL matches. Quite incredible.

Yes, Mancini may have earmarked the players and signed them but he never got the best out of City’s attackers. The style of soccer the Italian implemented often frustrated the home fans, especially in his final season in charge, as he went for a more pragmatic approach despite possessing so many marvelous attacking players that could tear opponents apart at the drop of a hat. Mancini didn’t use Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko, Toure and Silva correctly.

Of course it’s easy to point to the grass being greener with Pellegrini in charge as City rack up cricket scores in the ‘goals for’ column and brush some of the top PL teams away effortlessly. It’s also easy to make the argument that Pellegrini is better suited to the City job than Mancini was, as the Chilean manager’s attacking style perfectly fits into the group of players at his disposal. But until the Chilean delivers a PL title or some silverware, City’s fans will always point to Mancini’s success in delivering the teams first Championship since the 1967-68 season.

Sour grapes from Mancini? No. But I think he is a little envious that he didn’t get to carry on his initial success. There’s no doubt that the Italian built this Man City side.

But Pellegrini is making it flourish.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.