International Soccer - England

Stoppage Time: Pellegrini makes his mark at City

By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

( - It was at this time last year that three of the biggest clubs in England - Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United - were each in the process of changing managers.

Chelsea's appointment of the bombastic Jose Mourinho for a second tour of duty at Stamford Bridge received plenty of attention, while at United, there was a genuine curiosity factor surrounding the hiring of David Moyes, who was handed the unenviable task of taking over for a legend in Sir Alex Ferguson.

City's choice of Manuel Pellegrini as the successor to Roberto Mancini went largely unnoticed, but 11 months after his appointment, it's hard to argue that the 60-year-old Pellegrini had the biggest impact on his team.

On Sunday, Pellegrini became the third manager in Premier League history to win the league in his first season, while the Chile native is the first manager from outside of Europe to guide a team to the Premiership title.

Pellegrini came to England without the panache of Mourinho or the burden of taking over for Ferguson, and he simply inherited the most talented roster in the league and applied his stamp.

Under Mancini, City was an often combustible team, one that was capable of impressive wins but equally disappointing defeats.

Mancini made headlines for feuding with his players, and although he delivered City's first league title in 44 years in 2012, the Italian never seemed comfortable with the lofty expectations that accompanied owner Sheikh Mansour's money.

But Pellegrini wasn't fazed by the demands of managing a club like City as his level-headed approach appeared to rub off on his players and give the club a sense of calm it hadn't enjoyed before.

City pretty much stayed out of the headlines this season and allowed the antics of Mourinho, the downfall of United under Moyes and the resurgence of Liverpool to grab the attention of English fans.

And although City spent just 14 days atop the Premiership table over the course of the campaign, it was that steady approach that allowed the club to remain in the title mix and ultimately overtake Liverpool down the stretch.

Sure, there were issues for Pellegrini during the season, but he never made them a big deal and approached each problem with the same unflappable attitude.

Right out of the gate there were questions about City's away form, with the club recording just one win outside the Etihad Stadium in its first six away matches.

After each road failure, the questions continued to mount, but Pellegrini deflected each one and failed to show even the slightest sign of concern, instead indicating that he had confidence his team would get things right.

Two months into the season, goalkeeper Joe Hart seemed to lose confidence, and instead of allowing Hart to continue to be battered, Pellegrini pulled him out of the spotlight and inserted Costel Pantilimon between the posts.

The time off seemed to give Hart a chance to clear his head, and once he was ready, Pellegrini put him back into the lineup and he was one of the most reliable goalkeepers in the league the rest of the year.

Yet Pellegrini's biggest test came over the final month of the season as he had to juggle a congested fixture list with a number of injured stars while attempting to hunt down Liverpool.

A 3-2 defeat at Liverpool on April 13 dropped City seven points back of the Reds, although City still had two games in hand.

But just three days later, Pellegrini's side was held to a 2-2 draw at home against Sunderland, which made a second league title in three years look like a remote possibility.

However, Pellegrini was able to keep his team together, and although star players like Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure and David Silva were battling injuries, City finished the season with five straight wins, while Liverpool stumbled.

City looked like a team that had been there before, while Liverpool was making its first serious title challenge in a while.

And when the Reds lost at home to Chelsea and then blew a three-goal lead at Crystal Palace, City was right there to swoop in and win three games over the final eight days to lift the trophy.

Many things are required in order for a team to win the Premier League, but for Pellegrini, the answer is simple.

"Trust in the way we play," was the manager's response to that question.

It is a typically simple answer from a simple man who guided his team through the 38-game gauntlet known as the Premiership with little fanfare, while also making an indelible mark on England's best club.

05/12 13:56:30 ET

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