Winning in style a must for City boss

Pellegrini expects team to attack to entertain fans but United will climb above City with win

LONDON • Manuel Pellegrini may be under huge pressure to deliver the Premier League title or Champions League this season but the Manchester City manager has no intention of compromising his principles for the sake of silverware.

With City's hierarchy having left Pellegrini in little doubt that they will not tolerate another season without a leading trophy and with the shadow of Pep Guardiola looming ever larger, the Chilean could be forgiven for wanting to win at any cost.

Yet, such a notion clearly offends his sensibilities. Pellegrini is obsessed with winning in style and, to judge from his defiant demeanour before City's biggest game of the season, against Manchester United at Old Trafford today, he would rather fail trying to fulfil his utopian ideals than abandon what he holds dear for the sake of his job prospects.

"I don't know the way I will be judged," he said. "Maybe the way I analyse is different. Maybe I can be happy but not winning a title. But I could win a title and everyone will say, 'We played very well' and I cannot be happy with the way we do it. Everyone thinks if you win the title you are the best team but, to me, it doesn't work like that."

So winning trophies playing tantalising football is non-negotiable? "Absolutely essential, without doubt," Pellegrini said. "Maybe at the end of the season, you tell me you are going to win the title but by not playing the way you want in the last three or four games... then of course I'd want to win the title. But to prepare to win the title, this team must play the right way, or it's not a successful season."

Teams cannot always enthral and Pellegrini sometimes stands accused of a lack of pragmatism.

There have been signs this season of his side learning how to grind out wins - they have come from behind in their past two Champions League matches to win in stoppage time despite not playing well - but he will not be deterred from his pursuit of footballing purism.

Do not expect City to park the bus at Old Trafford, despite being sliced open there en route to a 4-2 defeat in March.

"For me it's the best way to do it," Pellegrini said. "It's best for the club, the fans, the league. It doesn't mean we don't have to defend well. In three seasons, we've been the best attacking team and defending we've been second, fourth and third. But you need to add other things. I think football must be attractive for fans and that means scoring goals. I will never play to just score one goal, then run behind the ball."

That is something United have been guilty of at times under Louis van Gaal, whose team remain frustratingly fitful - promising one week, pedestrian the next.

If United win today, they will leapfrog City, the leaders, but van Gaal will not be rushing to any conclusions.

"We have made a big step when you compare with last year," the United manager said. "That is the only positive thing. We have to improve. When we win against Manchester City, we can be first in the table but that doesn't mean we are the champions. It's a big step when we win, that's true, but you also have to continue and that's a big question. Only at the end of the season can we say if we have minimised the gap."

Van Gaal's repeated references to "when we win" - not "if" - was at odds with him installing City as favourites. "When you look at the facts they are first and we are third so they are the favourite," the United boss said.



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2015, with the headline 'WINNING IN STYLE A MUST FOR CITY BOSS'. Subscribe