Manuel Pellegrini made his strongest suggestion yet that Manchester City’s mid-season announcement of Pep Guardiola as his successor was a key factor in derailing the club’s Premier League title bid.
City played out a concluding 1-1 draw at Swansea City on Sunday to secure the point they required for a top-four finish at the expense of Manchester United, whose match against AFC Bournemouth must be rescheduled after the discovery of a suspicious package forced an abandonment at Old Trafford.
Pellegrini closes his three seasons in charge as a 2013-14 Premier League champion and two-time League Cup winner, but his side finished 15 points shy of surprise winners Leicester City this time around.
The Chilean saw his team beaten 3-1 by Leicester in February at the end of the week when Guardiola’s forthcoming switch from Bayern Munich was confirmed and, speaking to Sky Sports after the Swansea match, he said this affected the mood in his dressing room.
“In the Premier League, that’s so important, we finished maybe not where we wanted,” Pellegrini said.
“In the whole year we were competing for a spot in the Champions League so I think we deserved a spot in Champions League. Over year we were near top of the table.
“In February a lot of things happened that I don’t want to continue analysing.
“We lost two games at home against Leicester and Tottenham, at the same moment that everyone announced what would happen next year.
“I think the atmosphere was not the best to fight for the title.”
Thank you, Manuel pic.twitter.com/YAActCMkcd
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) May 15, 2016
Pellegrini still spoke of his affection for City and the club’s supporters and reflected on “a very special day” that concluded with him presenting his suit jacket to a fan in the away end at the behest of Yaya Toure.
The former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga boss – who has been linked with a return to La Liga at Valencia next term – also feels City’s cup exploits mean that have enjoyed a satisfactory campaign.
“If you analyse season we won Capital One Cup, we reached for the first time the semi-final of Champions League,” he said. “Maybe we didn’t play well, but only difference with Real Madrid [in the semi-final] was an own goal in our goal.
“Before then, unfortunately, we couldn’t continue in the FA Cup. We had to prioritise one competition because we had too many injuries in that moment that we couldn’t recover completely.”
Pellegrini added: “If you add all those things I think it’s a good season; not a very, very good season, but a good season.”