The understated Chilean has long insisted it will only be at season’s end that he will look back and discuss a campaign that has seen his side fail miserably to defend their Premier League title while simultaneously coming nowhere near success in any one of three cup competitions.
Such form has led to the widespread belief that the summer will see the veteran manager depart, two years into a three-year contract and just 12 months after leading City to the championship. But if and when he faces that awkward exit interview with his Abu Dhabi paymasters, Pellegrini clearly intends to go down fighting.
“I think in a season when you don’t win everything it is not a good season, but I think it not easy in this league to be in the second place,” said Pellegrini. “In this league you have five or six strong teams, the same strength as our team, and in a bad season I don’t think it is bad to finish second.
“We have four games more to play and I understand that for the media the only thing this team must do is to win everything, every championship, every game because the other teams are very weak, they don’t have good players, they don’t have money, but I understand that it is not a good season.
“I think they are trying to win the next game, trying to finish as near the top of the table as we can. We are trying also to be next year in the Champions League, a lot of things that you don’t finish because you don’t win the game. I repeat once again I appreciate that you think the only team that must win the title is City.
“We cannot win trophies every year. it is impossible especially in this year. This year Arsenal spend more money, Chelsea spend more money, United spend more money, Liverpool more money and have very strong squads — same as our squad. So if you think for this squad it is a bad position or shame to be in second place i don’t think so.
“For the players, the most important thing is to be champions,” said City’s 89th minute match winner Fernandinho. “But everyone knows how difficult that is. Chelsea are a lot of points in front of us, but we will try to take second ahead of Arsenal and United. We are just taking second as our target, whether that is in front of United or whoever.”
Fernandinho’s winner cancelled out an equaliser, three minutes earlier, from Carlos Sanchez who capped a fightback started when Tom Cleverley scored Villa first. Earlier, Sergio Aguero, gifted an early empty net by Brad Guzan’s embarrassing mistake, and Aleksandar Kolarov had seemed to have put the home side in control.
Crucially, however, between Villa’s equaliser and City’s winner, Christian Benteke had broken clean through on goal only to be brought down by Joe Hart after an assistant’s flag had incorrectly ruled him offside — the sort of unfortunate break that tends to curse a team like Villa that is scrapping to avoid relegation.
The fact that the offside decision was given with Benteke on the edge of the 18-yard box — offering the linesman decent perspective on a decision he still got wrong — just added to the sense of injustice felt by manager Tim Sherwood.
“I think he got helped out by the line as well — he’s got the 18-yard box there to see,” said Sherwood. “You get some and you don’t get others but let’s hope it’s just cost us that game. It’ll be a very expensive mistake otherwise.”
Hart 5; Zabaleta 6, Demichelis 7, Mangala 6, Kolarov 8; Fernando 7, Toure 5 (Fernandinho 46, 7); Navas 7, Lampard 5 (Milner 56, 7), Silva 7; Aguero 7 (Bony 82).
Guzan 4; Bacuna 6 (Lowton 86), Okore 5, Vlaar 7, Richardson 7; Cleverley 7, Sanchez 7, Westwood 6 (N’Zogbia 67, 7), Delph 6; Grealish 8, Benteke 7.
M Dean 5