Yaya Touré’s brace on his return to the Manchester City starting lineup in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace may have proven a point to Pep Guardiola. However, in handling the star midfielder with discipline, the Catalan has proven his worth as a manager and gone some way to correcting mistakes made by former City boss Roberto Mancini.
When Mancini allowed Carlos Tevez back into Manchester City’s squad in 2012 after infamously declaring the striker would never play for the club again, he set a dangerous precedent at the club.
Although the striker was influential in firing City to their first Premier League title in 44 years, Mancini drew criticism from Sir Alex Ferguson for performing a U-turn after Tevez returned from his unplanned holiday in Argentina. The then Manchester United manager described his counterpart’s decision as “desperate”.
City went on to lose their title to United the following season, struggling to maintain the intensity they showed in 2011/12. Although they regained the league crown under Manuel Pellegrini in 2013/14, their title defence was just as flat as it had been two years earlier. They showed promising signs early in the following campaign, but dipped in form after finding out that they would no longer be playing under Pellegrini in 2016/17.
Not long into his reign at the Etihad, Guardiola was faced with a familiar problem at the club: Yaya Touré’s agent, Dimitri Seluk, started a public spat after the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss omitted the Ivorian from his Champions League squad.
Guardiola subsequently banished Touré, demanding an apology for Seluk’s comments before he considered bringing him back into the fold.
At first, Touré’s camp resisted. However, when Guardiola refused to back down, they eventually relented, with Touré apologising and talking Seluk into making peace with his manager.
In making it clear from the start that Touré was welcome at the club if he swallowed his pride, Guardiola demonstrated his value as a man manager. He knew that no player was more important than Manchester City. However, he was also aware that City would need Touré.
The club’s multimillionaire players are not used to a manager who demands respect, while staying true to his word. Mancini’s futile attempts to get the best out of wayward striker Mario Balotelli and Seluk’s bizzare cake-gate row with the club during Pellegrini’s stint in charge suggested that despite their success, all was not well in the Manchester City camp under the previous two managers.
Guardiola’s players now know better than to cross him, because while his initial response may not be as withering as Mancini’s was to Tevez, they have been left in no doubt that he will never compromise on whatever punishment he dishes out.