x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Manchester City’s Pellegrini stands by his approach despite loss to Chelsea

Chilean plays down managerial rivalry and absence of Fernandinho

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini says he refuses to further engage in a war of words with his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho. Delores Johnson / The National
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini says he refuses to further engage in a war of words with his Chelsea counterpart Jose Mourinho. Delores Johnson / The National

MANCHESTER // The outside world drew sweeping conclusions. Chelsea beat Manchester City because of a tactical masterpiece, because of a brilliant counter-attacking game plan and because Jose Mourinho out-manoeuvred his old enemy Manuel Pellegrini.

There is one dissenter. The message from the Manchester City manager was one of defiance. An unapologetic Pellegrini has reviewed the 1-0 defeat 12 days ago and decided his tactics were correct. He goes into today’s rematch envisaging a repeat in his approach and a different result.

“I am absolutely sure that in the previous game it was not a problem with tactics,” Pellegrini said. “We had three or four clear chances before they scored. If we’d scored, we could have scored again.”

For him, Branislav Ivanovic’s winner had a freakish element.

“He does not find it easy to shoot with his left foot, but he did it in that game,” he said.

Pellegrini has ruled out reinforcing his midfield for Saturday’s FA Cup match.

The bold Chilean fields two strikers and only two central midfielders. His Chelsea counterpart prefers to pick a third player in that department in his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.

In the first game City played with two defensive midfielders, Martin Demichelis and Yaya Toure. “We had 64 per cent of possession,” Pellegrini said.

The widespread theory that City missed the injured Fernandinho, who is still sidelined, was rebutted by Pellegrini.

“It was not because we didn’t have Fernandinho, it was because we made a mistake with a pass,” he said. “We were not in order.”

It was a rare concession that City had erred. Improvement is required in certain respects, but he insists the blueprint will remain the same.

“We have a style of play that we don’t change,” he said. “We will try not to be open for the counter-attack and maybe we made some mistakes in defending and attacking.”

Chelsea, in contrast, were virtually flawless. Mourinho recorded a seventh win in nine managerial meetings. If it amounted to a familiar narrative of the Portuguese getting the better of Pellegrini, who has beaten him only once, the City manager said he believes that record is irrelevant, pointing out that most of the matches came while he was at Malaga and Mourinho was at Real Madrid.

He said: “I don’t play against Mourinho. The record you are talking about is Malaga against Real Madrid. If you take the average of that fixture, you will see Madrid normally beat Malaga. We beat Madrid once.

“This year there have been two [games]. It’s important we review the game but it’s not a problem for me: I don’t play against him.”

Pellegrini is trying not to pit himself against Mourinho. He is determined not to get drawn into a public argument with the loquacious, mischievous Chelsea manager.

“I will not answer questions about what Mourinho says or thinks,” Pellegrini said. “I don’t want to continue with the controversy in the media.”

Controversy is Mourinho’s calling card.

Pellegrini is a manager who prefers the quieter life. In a week when City face first Chelsea, then Barcelona, that is impossible.

His position is clear: he will carry on doing things his way, regardless of the distractions or the calibre of the opposition.