MANUEL PELLEGRINI has every right to stick the proverbial two fingers up at his critics – and there have been no shortage of them recently – after seeing his Manchester City side beat Liverpool to win the Capital One Cup.
The City boss was crucified after a severely-weakened side was thrashed 5-1 in the FA Cup fifth round by Chelsea but an impressive Champions League Round of 16 first leg victory away to Dynamo Kiev and success over the Reds at Wembley means it’s the Chilean who’s having the last laugh.
Pellegrini was also ‘questioned’ – to put it mildly – over his decision to stick with Willy Caballero in goal for the Capital One Cup showdown, rather than recall number one Joe Hart.
Of course it’s history now that the man who deputises for Hart in cup competitions was the unlikely hero against Liverpool, saving three penalties in the shoot-out.
The City manager claimed afterwards that he would rather have lost the match than break his promise to Caballero, who followed him from Malaga to the Etihad in 2014.
“I’d rather lose the title than lose my word,” Pellegrini said, adding that Hart had shown he was a “good person” by supporting his deputy.
Being the gentleman he is, Pellegrini resisted the temptation to gloat in his success and deliver a stinging response to his critics, instead insisting his full focus remains on doing his best for the club that will let him go at the end of the season.
He told the Telegraph: “To win a title in Wembley is very special. We are not thinking about what we can win, we are thinking about the next game – against Liverpool – we are nine points behind the leader but we have a game in hand. I had a difficult decision with the FA Cup but I think this title and the win in Kiev support my decision.
“Fortunately for us, we now have three or four players coming back to the squad, so we are not going to give up any chances to win the Premier League.
“We are going to fight to the end and try to continue in the Champions League.”
Not only does the victory over Liverpool guarantee there will be at least one piece of silverware added to the City trophy cabinet this season, it could well provide the confidence, the spark to an end-of-season surge that may yet result in bigger prizes this campaign.
Does the Capital One Cup triumph vindicate Pellegrini’s FA Cup decision or does it depend on whether City can complete the job against Dynamo Kiev?