Roberto Mancini, who was sacked at the end of last season, remains popular among Manchester City supporters.
He was the manager who led them to an FA Cup and a league title, ending a run without a trophy that stretched back to 1976, achievements that led to fans taking out an advert in the Gazzetta dello Sport to thank him.
Where he failed, though, was in Europe. Despite all their expenditure, City never made it out of the group stages of the Champions League and it is that deficiency as much as anything else that Manuel Pellegrini was brought in to address.
“The last two seasons, without making excuses, the groups that we’ve had have been really hard,” defender Micah Richards told Sky Sports News. “I think this group is still hard but is a little bit easier than the last two.” City began impressively enough, beating Viktoria Plzen 3-0 in the Czech Republic last month, but they now face a major test, at home to the defending champions Bayern Munich.
“We started off with a good win away and we are at home now so hopefully we can get another good result, but it’s massive for the club now,” Richards added.
“We won the Premier League, or scraped it by goal difference, and now we want to improve every year and it’s important we do that in the Champions League.” City have been inconsistent since Pellegrini took over, beating Manchester United 4-1 at home but losing on the road to both Cardiff City and Aston Villa.
In both those games, though, their general play was good and they were let down by individual defensive and goalkeeping errors.
“With the players we have, we should be there or thereabouts in the Champions League, but to not qualify in the last two seasons has been pretty hard for everyone to take,” said Richards.
“Now the team looks like it is gelling at the right time. We can go into Champions League games with confidence and I feel good this year.
“I think the draw is a little bit on our side and I just hope we qualify and see where we go from there.” City faced Bayern in the competition two years ago, losing in Munich — the game in which Mancini rowed with Carlos Tevez, leading to the striker departing to Argentina for six months — and winning at home in what was essentially a dead rubber.
Pellegrini, though, is determined to achieve a result when it matters, partly because it would help progress in the group and partly for what it would mean in terms of City’s self-belief.
“We are trying to improve our mentality and the way we play, our performance in every game,” said Pellegrini.
“If we want to win something we need to play every game with exactly the same concentration, same intensity.
“Then our quality will make a small difference, not a big difference. We will try to win every game, but it is not easy.”