The Manchester City manager will not take today's opponents lightly despite the relegation fight they are embroiled in, writes Richard Jolly.
Roberto Mancini wary of Wigan Athletic's threat in the FA Cup final
The Italian feels that Wigan are particularly dangerous opponents because they are such outsiders and this represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the relegation-threatened club’s players.
“If you play against team who plays [to avoid] relegation and if you want to win, you should play not at 100 but at 200 per cent,” he said. “For them it is the best moment in their life.”
During his playing and managerial career, Mancini won the Coppa Italia 10 times and lifted the FA Cup with City in 2011 and, in his considerable experience of knockout competitions, he can only think of one example where a team was such underdogs.
“I played for Sampdoria against Ancona many years ago,” he said. It was in 1994, two seasons after Mancini captained Sampdoria in the European Cup final and when they finished third in Serie A, which was won by Fabio Capello’s all-conquering AC Milan side.
In contrast, Ancona came eighth in Serie B. They were beaten 6-1 by Mancini’s Sampdoria in the two-legged final. The 48-year-old had a more famous 6-1 victory in mind when he was asked for his abiding memory of his encounters with the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson.
City’s historic victory at Old Trafford in October 2011 was the heaviest defeat Ferguson suffered in his 2,153 games as a manager. “That is impossible,” Mancini added. “I don’t think there is another tie like this.”
Otherwise, he paid a generous tribute to the Manchester United manager, who has been in charge at Old Trafford since 1986. “It is difficult to say Sir Alex is the best [ever] but he is the best manager in the last 27 years,” Mancini said. “I don’t think there will be another manager like him.”
Experience has taught him that even success does not bring similar stability. “I won seven trophies at Inter in four years and they sacked me,” he recalled. “I know football enough to understand this situation.”
Including the Community Shield, he is eager to secure a fourth piece of silverware in 25 months for City, who had gone 35 years without a major honour before then.
Mancini is expected to keep faith with Costel Pantilimon, his second-choice goalkeeper, who has played throughout the FA Cup run, rather than recalling Joe Hart. He explained: “Costel is a good keeper. If we decide that we play Costel it is because we trust in him. It is not a big decision.”
The Romanian has said he is likely to leave City in the summer as he looks for first-team football. For others, including Carlos Tevez, Joleon Lescott, Edin Dzeko and Kolo Toure, it could be a final trophy in City colours and Mancini admits change is inevitable.
“There will be some players who leave the club, some who come in but now we focus on the final,” he said.
For captain Vincent Kompany, it is a chance to make an indelible mark in the club’s history.
“If you win trophies it is something that will be remembered forever,” the centre-back said. “You can't take those things for granted. If you win a trophy you should celebrate it. You consider it as a great achievement.”
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