Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini wants his critics to reserve judgement until the end of the season – and does not think he must win the Premier League title to keep his job.
Pellegrini has come out fighting following recent criticism and speculation over his future after losses to Barcelona and Liverpool.
The Chilean’s tactics have come under scrutiny, with his preferred 4-4-2 system proving flimsy against the Catalans and again in the defeat at Anfield.
After losing both games 2-1, City now face a daunting task to reach the Uefa Champions League quarter-finals, and their grip on the Premier League title is loosening.
Before Pellegrini’s appointment in 2013, chief executive Ferran Soriano spoke of the club’s ambition to win five trophies in five seasons.
Pellegrini delivered the first two of them last year – the League Cup in March before securing the league title in May – but recent developments have seen the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Diego Simeone and Pep Guardiola linked with his job.
But the 61-year-old South American was in defiant mood as he held a press conference on Tuesday to preview the midweek clash with Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium.
“When I signed the contract, I was never told I must win a title every year or that I must win five trophies in five years,” Pellegrini said.
“That was a sentence of Ferran – that is perfectly normal. But maybe you can win two in one year and one in another, the other another two.
“The title is important but it is not the only important thing.”
That suggests Pellegrini believes his superiors will see through a potential lack of silverware this season if the football the team is playing is of the required standard.
Pellegrini has certainly deviated little from his attacking ideals throughout his time at City and it served him well last season.
He also points out that this season is not yet over, even though his side trail leaders Chelsea by five points having played a game more, and must overturn a 2-1 deficit at Camp Nou.
Asked about what the expectations are on him, Pellegrini said: “I think you have the wrong opinion about the owners of this club. They are not so desperate to win titles, they want to improve.
“They do want to win titles but they want to do it as a ‘complete’ work.
“I want to win titles and I have done it in South America and here, but for me it’s not just about winning titles.
“When you finish the season is when you analyse. You can win titles but if you are not happy with the way you are playing then you cannot continue as a manager.”
Tuesday night’s action saw a last-gasp Christian Benteke penalty hand Tim Sherwood his first win as Aston Villa manager and lifted his side out of the Premier League relegation zone with a 2-1 home victory against West Bromwich Albion.
Sadio Mane struck late to rejuvenate Southampton’s fading battle for Champions League qualification with a 1-0 home win against Crystal Palace to move them into fifth, while Sunderland came from behind to draw 1-1 at Hull City.
Gabriel Agbonlahor struck his first goal in 14 games to open the scoring for Villa after 22 minutes, latching onto Benteke’s knock on to slot through the legs of goalkeeper Ben Foster, sparking wild celebrations from Sherwood.
The visitors equalised after 67 minutes when Saido Berahino headed in from close range. It was the young striker’s 12th league goal of the season.
Just as the match looked to be heading for a draw, Foster brought down Matthew Lowton to concede a penalty and Belgium striker Benteke stepped up to coolly roll the ball in from the spot four minutes into added time.
It was Villa’s first win in 13 league games and lifted them into 17th place on 25 points, three above the relegation zone.
Hull City’s Dame N’Doye, a deadline-day signing, scored his third goal in five games to give them the lead against Sunderland with an exquisite flick after 15 minutes.
The visitors then had manager Gus Poyet sent to the stands after a heated touchline exchange with his opposite number Steve Bruce.
Jack Rodwell headed in an equaliser with 13 minutes left to keep Sunderland in 16th place on 26 points, four above the relegation places and one point below Hull.