Managers on trial

New Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola has already signed Thiago Alcantara from his former club.-AP

A lot of clubs have brought in new men to change their fortunes in the coming season and it will be a tightrope walk for them. By Brian Glanville.

The new season in Europe sees a group of famous managers newly in charge of major clubs, with huge expectations of all of them. At Chelsea, Jose Mourinho returns through what has been, since his controversial sacking, a revolving door. Through which the new manager of Real Madrid, his successor, Carlo Ancelotti, found himself passing. Bayern Munich, holders of the European Champions League and runaway winners of last season’s Bundesliga, have parted company with Jupp Heynckes who, even after so splendidly successful a season, says he has now definitively retired.

At Manchester City, where Roberto Mancini was rejected and seems still to be licking his wounds, there arrives the 59-year-old Chilean Manuel Pellegrini, who achieved small miracles in Spain last season with a Malaga club, which at one point seemed deserted by its backer, yet capable of exceptional things in the Champions Cup. And at Bayern, we now see the coach who inspired the success of brilliant Barcelona, in the shape of Pep Guardiola. While David Moyes succeeds the revered Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Pellegrini can hardly have been encouraged by the professed desire of the club’s chief executive, Ferran Soriano, that he wants City to win five trophies in as many seasons.

Mancini went on his way, despite reaching the FA Cup final — where, it is true, City were sensationally well beaten by the underdogs Wigan — and finishing runners-up in the Premier League — though a long way behind the eternal rivals, Manchester United. At City, certainly Pellegrini will have the resources which he could scarcely dream of at modest Malaga. But, as we see, the expectations will be proportionately — or even disproportionately — far higher.

This summer, the Brazilian midfielder Fernandino — who couldn’t even find a place in the Brazil team which recently won the Confederations Cup — cost over GBP25 million from Shakhtar Donetsk, while another GBP15 million went on the Spanish international winger, Jesus Navas. Great expectations, shared by Txiki Begiristain, the sporting director, once himself a Barcelona star. Pellegrini says he is “not concerned” about what happened to Mancini, though perhaps he should be, even if he seems a far less confrontational character than the former Italy and Sampdoria star who fell out badly with Craig Bellamy, and even with the gifted young goalkeeper Joe Hart.

“We have to have a different style in the club,“ says Pellegrini who also, if briefly, managed Real Madrid in his time. “And that is why I am here. It is impossible every year to buy three, four, five players.” Actually City in recent seasons seem to have done just that, though now they must cope without Carlos Tevez, who has been sold to Juventus, where he says he will be obliged to train harder.

“We need to work with young players,” pursues Pellegrini, “The under-21s.” I’m sure he means every word of this, but the immense pressures on the team to do well, the endless stream of money poured in by their Middle Eastern owners — unimpeded it seems by the new European regulations of football finance — demand results at speed.

Pep Guardiola worked wonders at Barcelona and seems already to have mastered German. Yet his appointment still seems to me a surprising one, even if he is taking over a team at the top of its prowess. Though it could well have had two men, Dante and Franck Ribery, sent off in the European final. Yet the Barcelona team which flourished under Guardiola was the product of years of skilled, intensive coaching, almost from boyhood, so that those who came through all the way to the top team were imbued with the same elegant, technical ball retaining style. It took years before the likes of Xavi, Messi and Iniesta arrived in the top team. If Guardiola wants Bayern to play like that, he could be working against the grain. The Bayern team has its own, highly effective, forceful manner of playing, a football philosophy which hardly chimes with Barcelona’s.

Guardiola has brought with him to Munich a platoon of Barcelona coaches. “I love to attack,” he says, “That’s my idea of football.” But how to attack? He declares, “Football belongs to the players, not the manager. The players of Barcelona are different to those who play here at Bayern, so I have to adapt to the players, 100%. The system doesn’t matter.” Yet of course it matters, and he surely knows it.

David Moyes has a potentially difficult inheritance at Manchester United. In his decade with Everton he did astonishingly well on strictly limited budgets, buying shrewdly and keeping the club afloat, a great achievement in itself though no title was ever won. Ferguson’s giant shadow will loom large; Moyes can hardly hope to emulate Ferguson’s huge authority over club and players. And he has already been faced with the potential problem of Wayne Rooney.

Moyes naturally wants him to stay and insists there is no issue between them, though in fact when Rooney was a precocious teenager at Everton the two at one stage fell out. They were reconciled before Rooney made his move to Manchester United but who knows whether the memory still rankles with Rooney? Meanwhile Moyes and the club are determined not to sell him though Rooney denies that he asked Ferguson — as the former manager has said — for a transfer. Mourinho would love to have him at Chelsea and has publicly said so. Meanwhile the word is that United will certainly not let him go at least until next summer. It remains to be seen whether he will command the regular place he lost under Ferguson but Moyes seems keen to put him in what he regards as Rooney’s best role in central attack, behind Robin van Persie.

At Everton, Moyes is succeeded by the Spaniard Roberto Martinez who won the FA Cup with a sensational final victory over Manchester City only for the team promptly to be relegated. He has already brought several of his Wigan players to Goodison Park, notably the dynamic and free-scoring striker, Arouna Kone and, to some unease, a posse of his coaching and technical staff at Wigan. He has also brought off what seems a real coup of acquiring the teenaged Barcelona attacker Gerard Deulofeu on loan. But Moyes, his predecessor, would supposedly long to have the attacking left back Leighton Baines (Moyes nurtured him at Goodison) and the towering Belgian attacker, Marouane Fellaini.

And where Moyes was tactically cautious, Martinez’s Wigan were notoriously penetrable in defence. He cannot afford to take risks with his formations at Goodison. Though, when at Swansea, whose football was so bright, he achieved a fair balance between attack and defence.

At Real Madrid, Ancelotti inherits a squad seriously at odds with Mourinho last season, notably in the person of the hugely popular and cherished goalkeeper Iker Casillas, whom he so controversially dropped. While it remains to be seen if the prolific Cristiano Ronaldo will stay; he speaks of nostalgia for Manchester United.