Sunday's hard-fought victory at the Etihad brought one of the toughest weeks of Roberto Mancini's Manchester City reign so far to a positive end. Failure to beat Ajax four days earlier has left the Blues without a win, and languishing at the bottom of their Champions League group. As a result, pundits and journalists alike have publically scrutinised the Italian's less-than-impressive track record in Europe's elite competition. In six previous attempts he has failed to progress further than the quarter-finals, with City, Inter Milan and Lazio, despite huge domestic success. Before Mancini masterminded City's first top-flight title since 1968 - clinched so dramatically last season - he had already accomplished great things back in his homeland.
Three successive Serie A titles with Inter, and two Coppa Italias, one each with Fiorentina and Lazio, were all accomplished in a short managerial spell in his native Italy, but it was his failure to produce the goods in the Champions League which many back home will remember him by. This is especially true, as two years after Mancini was replaced by Jose Mourinho at Inter, the Portuguese supremo guided the Nerazzuri to Champions League success, with many of the same players Mancini had at the club. Assuming Manchester City don't peform a minor miracle and qualify for the knock-out stages in the coming weeks, it will be the second successive year that Mancini has failed to steer City through in Europe.
However things could have been all so different. In City's two Champions League campaigns they have been drawn against Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Lazio and Villarreal. To be drawn against this high a calibre of team in consecutive seasons is very rare, and if you compare to Manchester United's meagre opponents this year and last, they are simply poles apart. Last season, the Blues amassed 10 points from their group games, normally sufficient to progress further. However, on this occasion it wasn't enough. After becoming champions back in May, expectations rose for this European adventure, and despite an incredibly tough draw, many expected success on the continent. Aside from the capitulation in Amsterdam, City have not been catastrophically bad in Europe, and with a bit of luck, could have been well on their way to qualification. Fans don't want to deal with ifs and buts, BUT, IF City could have held on in the Bernabeu, or Sergio Aguero's goal would have stood last week against Ajax, this debate would not be happening.
Momentum is everything in football, and IF the Argentinean's goal would have sealed a memorable comeback, City would be well fancied to qualify with the majority of bookmakers. The cynics out there will always refer to the payroll at the club, and how players who cost mega-rich owner Sheikh Mansour so much money should be doing much better. However, as a famous Mancunian once said, 'These things take time'. The majority of those who are unhappy with what Mancini is building in East Manchester are the newer generation supporters, who cannot remember the turbulent recent past living in the shadow of their bitter city rivals, or they simply chose to forget instead.
As a Manchester United fan, living in a predominantly Blue area, listening to these 'supporters', some of whom have been calling for Mancini to step down could you believe, just need to look a little deeper across the city, to discover that success in Europe doesn't happen overnight. It took Sir Alex Ferguson 13 years to win his first Champions League crown, in what some would say was fortuitous circumstances in the Nou Camp in 1999, and he has only repeated the success once since.
As one of the most acclaimed managers in modern history, two Champions League trophies in 26 years doesn't seem all that impressive. Admittedly, English clubs were banned from European competition for the first four years of Fergie's reign, and then hampered by the 'three-foreigner' rule, but still the road to glory in 1999 took some building. United have had some similar mishaps in the Champions League too. Failure to dispose of Monaco in 1998, knocked-out on away goals by Bayer Leverkusen in 2002, Jose Mourinho's Porto breaking our hearts late at Old Trafford in 2004 and several high-profile group stage exits are to name but a few.
Patience is needed in the blue half of Manchester. We knew that eventually Sir Alex would deliver the European glory we so craved, and were willing to wait. Yes Manchester City should be doing better, as English champions, and with an incredibly talented squad at their manager's disposal.
The Italian's tactical changes may not be everyone's cup of tea, but sometimes they do work, with Sunday's late-show evidence of that, and I am certain that Mancini does have a few tricks up his sleeve, and a plan in place to bring long-term success. But, in reality, what these Manchester City fans have got to realise is that, as Morrissey so delightfully put it, 'These things take time'.