Originally published in la Gazzetta dello Sport
The boldest laugh of the night arrives straightaway, at the starter. “let’s agree,” says Roberto Mancini before sitting down, “let’s not talk about the return match”. Moments of surprise. “Why spoil our night?” Half of those present (staff, friends, agents, two journalists, the barber that needs to be called Coiffeur) burst out laughing, not only because the joke is funny, but also because it unleashes the adrenaline of the last 15 minutes of the home-leg. In that ending, made everlasting by the extra long amount of injury time (“5 minutes, and he even added one extra. If he was refereeing in Italy, he would give half and hour for each half!”), Manchester United must have missed 170 chances, thanks to Given’s saves against Rooney, a little bit down to the miss-firing of Valencia and lastly because of Onuoha’s miraculous intervention versus Owen. While Mancini was bringing on the little-known Onuoha, Sir Alex Ferguson was readying stars like Michael Owen and Paul Scholes. “Doing so,” comments Giorgio de Giorgis, Roberto’s agent, adviser and above all friend, “he showed that he really values the competition”. True. Unanimous view point of the English press: unlike the previous Carling Cup matches, this time Ferguson played his best players because he cares as much about “bragging rights” in the city as he does the Champion’s League.
Mancini, was it destiny?
“I confess I thought so when Onuoha cleared Owen’s shot of the line. I need players. I hope Vieira gets fit for the return match. Maybe Real will give me Gago, maybe Milan will give me Flamini…”
About the Milan derby. Who’s going to win?
“Impossible to say, although Milan have the chance of a lifetime. They are playing well, whereas Inter seem a bit under the weather.”
Who wins the derby wins the Scudetto?
“I don’t think so. In my opinion Inter will win the league again anyway.”
Were you expecting Ronaldinho to return so close to his former levels?
“I had trust in Leonardo that being Brazilian, he would be able to connect with him. And that’s what happened. You can tell that there is a chemistry between the two. And it seems to me that Borriello fits well in that formation too.”
Have you seen Milan playing recently?
“No, but I follow the papers carefully. The team had already improved, when a couple of injuries, as happens, helped to shape it, giving it balance. The problem will be who to replace when Pato is back. I’d have an idea…”
Leonardo is all ears.
“He should give him to me!”
Are you looking for a home? Here the players all live in Cheshire, 50km away from Manchester.
“For now I’ll stay in the hotel. If I do get an apartment, it will be in the city, I love to live in the city centre. Manchester is better than what they say.”
If I do get an apartment – this might mean that the fourth position is the aim to reach to confirm Mancini as part of the Manchester City project. And it is actually curious that the Sheiks are forcing Mancini to aim for free transfers from the January market. “I think they are testing me. Well, I won’t disappoint them.”
Outside the restaurant – it must be 3am – a group of elegant drunk people walk by singing Blue Moon, Manchester City’s unofficial anthem. They are all wearing Mancini’s famous scarf. They don’t see Roberto, who looks at them cherishingly. “I’m going to sleep. From tomorrow we’re working to make them sing next Wednesday too.”