It was the tale of the two Roberto’s at Saturday’s FA Cup final at Wembley and the tale of two seasons. Wigan’s triumph, thanks to a goal in the dying minutes of the game, highlighted small things about both sides but more importantly about their managers than either would care to admit. Martinez looked like a man possessed on Saturday, pushing his players along with each kick of the ball whilst his opposite number sat pensively on the bench next to Brian Kidd. Mancini showed little emotion over the ninety minutes except to jump up and march to his technical box to scream commands at his players. Martinez on the other hand spent the majority of the match camped out in his technical area willing his players on like a dotting dad on the side of his kids match. In the end a solitary goal from comeback star Ben Watson, returning to the team as a substitute after a horror leg break in November, which settled the game.
It was the perfect ending to a horrid season for Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini, who less than a year ago was basking in Premiership glory after pulling of a last minute miracle himself to snatch the title. Now after a second place finish, a losers medal in the FA Cup final and two unceremonious exits from the League Cup and Champions League, Mancini’s time looks set to be up. Rumours that an agreement has been struck to bring in Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini as Mancini’s replacement surfaced before Saturday’s match much to the dismay of the Italian coach. It will surely have impacted his effectiveness to immobilize his team for those ninety minutes on the Wembley pitch and the performance during the game of City’s multimillion squad backs that notion. But the truth is that Mancini’s head has been on the block, ready for execution for some time now after failure to qualify from their winnable Champions league group left City’s owners red faced with embarrassment. The summary of City’s campaign is disappointment, with a squad capable of so much more but with a coach lacking in tactical imagination and motivational skills. Mancini’s tactical mistakes in Europe against Ajax and his lack of motivational powers needed to rally his City team leading 1-0 at White Hart Lane in a crucial game, have ultimately been his undoing. Mancini will exit not through the front door as a winner but quickly through the back under a cover of darkness.
For Roberto Martinez, it’s onwards and upwards. Wigan owner Dave Whelan is convinced he can keep Martinez from leaving for a bigger club like Everton but with Wigan likely to drop down into the Championship, a European adventure might not be enough of a pull to keep Martinez at the DW stadium. It’s still mathematically possible for Wigan to avoid the drop but they need two victories in their final two games plus some other results to go their way for that to happen. Martinez has managed to engineer their survival four times so far but this season may be too much for the talented Spaniard. His reputation is growing with other clubs in England and his homeland now paying close attention. After masterminding the cup win on Saturday it will be almost impossible for Whelan to keep his manager much longer. Martinez too, however faithful to Wigan must be yearning for a new challenge, one that doesn’t always end up as a relegation dog fight. A move to Everton to replace the Manchester United bound David Moyes would interest him, especially after failing to get the Liverpool job less than ten months ago but it may not be his call. Everton chairman Bill Kenwright is rumoured to favour trying another scot in the form of Malky MacKay so that door may be shut for Martinez before he has had a chance to stick is head through it. Spain looks like a more likely option but with only the Malaga job coming up, he may have to start the season at Wigan, even if that means in the Championship.
It will be an interesting summer for the two Roberto’s, with neither quite sure what will happen in the future. Returns to their respective homelands looks like a potential route but to do so there has to be an opportunity. Mancini knows he doesn’t have the same grace period as Martinez to decide, with his fate likely to be decided before the end of the season by the City owners. Martinez on the other hand has a job, and if Whelan had his way, it would be for life. But Martinez needs to move on, try something new before he does long term damage to his growing reputation. If he fails to move and Wigan slip down into the Championship with no guarantee of a quick return, the FA Cup accomplishment he worked so hard to achieve will slowly fade into a distant memory. The phone will stop ringing, the media will stop talking and suddenly Martinez will be looking at jobs at Millwall, Middlesbourgh or Leeds as his next big move (no offense to them). Not quite what he imagined when he lifted the cup so high on Saturday at Wembley.