Manuel Pellegrini is ready to hit the ground running as his Manchester City career begins in earnest this week.
The Chilean has slipped effortlessly into the managerial hotseat vacated by Roberto Mancini at the Etihad Stadium at the end of last season.
Pellegrini already claims to feel at home and is comfortable with his squad as he prepares to launch their Barclays Premier League campaign at home to Newcastle tonight. The 59-year-old has a daunting challenge ahead, having been told the club not only want to win the biggest prizes, but want to do so in style and with a harmonious dressing room.
He also has a host of other responsibilities relating to City’s much-noted “holistic approach” to all footballing matters but none of this fazes him.
The former Villarreal, Real Madrid and Malaga boss said: “It is my first time here in England and it is a different league. [Whether it is] more difficult or less difficult we will see during the year, but for me it is exactly the same. I worked for nine years in Europe and I saw a lot of matches in the Premier League every weekend. I played in the Champions League against English Premier League teams so I know a lot about this. And living here now, of course, I see more.”
The mood at the club has been transformed since the turbulent final weeks of the last campaign when, with the title already surrendered, City lost the FA Cup final and Mancini was sacked. There was widespread dismay at Mancini’s removal just a year after winning the Premier League but Pellegrini’s calmness, composure and confidence have done much to win people over.
With nearly £90million spent on new players Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, there is also a freshness about the squad.
Captain Vincent Kompany said: “I look at our squad and I am really pleased with the kind of players we have got in. They are not just great players but great characters. Already they have done some unbelievable stuff in pre-season. The character just fits perfectly. In any team I want to compete on every level, which means you need players who are just positive and always ready to keep going.”
Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is adamant talk of frustration at St James’ Park could not be further from the truth and his team are better prepared than ever for the season ahead. He said: “There is always that special feeling when the Premier League is kicking off and I think we’ve worked hard on pre-season and got the group in fantastic condition.
“You can never read too much into pre-season – two years ago we lost to Leeds in our final pre-season game and were all over the place but went on to finish fifth. The guys are fitter than they’ve ever been under my management and they’re ready to go. Last year was difficult for us, not only with the extra games but also because it was compounded by an injury crisis. We will be better armed next time we go into Europe.”