• City, it must be said, have taken a while to take to the Champions League 
  • This season, it has felt as though City have finally started to understand
  • The two-legged defeat of PSG felt like a big step in the right direction
  • Real Madrid dumped Manchester City out of the Champions League
  • The Spaniards won 1-0 on the night and in the tie in the semi-final 
  • Vincent Kompany suffered more injury woe and limped off after 10 minutes
  • Gareth Bale’s deflected effort handed Real Madrid the lead after 20 minutes

Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

Manuel Pellegrini stood during the death throes of this game with his arms folded, his expression impossible to read. And then it was over — his Champions League season and to all intents and purposes his time at Manchester City.

In many ways this night, this tie, serves as a perfect summary of his three years at the club. Earnest, honest and creditable. Not exciting, though. Rarely has it been terribly exciting.

Pellegrini leaves with one Barclays Premier League triumph and two League Cups. The Chilean may feel satisfied and that is his right. 

The curtain effectively came down on Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City career on Wednesday night

The curtain effectively came down on Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City career on Wednesday night

Real Madrid fans lined the streets outside the stadium to welcome their team bus adhere of kick-off

Real Madrid fans lined the streets outside the stadium to welcome their team’s bus ahead of kick-off

It was a scene that resembled a trophy parade rather than just a pre-match greeting from supporters

It was a scene that resembled a trophy parade rather than just a pre-match greeting from supporters

Yaya Toure (left) was back in the side in an attacking role but City could not get going in the final third

Yaya Toure (left) was back in the side in an attacking role but City could not get going in the final third

Whether he has significantly moved City on from the years of his predecessor Roberto Mancini is another argument. The Italian left with a Premier League and FA Cup.

For City, the Champions League remains the final frontier. This season Pellegrini’s team have stretched boundaries that previously seemed beyond them. Here they were one late goal, one set-piece or one kind bounce of the ball away from reaching the final in Milan.

Still there was an incompleteness about their performance. They hung on in this tie against a better team and that is creditable. Real Madrid have been in European Cup semi-finals before — 26 times before, to be precise — so they know what they are doing.

What should irritate Pellegrini as he reflects on this attempt, however, is that his team never imposed themselves. They didn’t create chances. They didn’t worry Real. It has, in truth, been a while since they worried anybody at all.

Gareth Bale celebrates after his deflected shot gave Real Madrid the lead 20 minutes into the clash

Gareth Bale celebrates after his deflected shot gave Real Madrid the lead 20 minutes into the clash

Bale found the top corner via Fernando's boot from a tight angle to hand Real Madrid the initiative

Bale found the top corner via Fernando’s boot from a tight angle to hand Real Madrid the initiative

Real forward Bale  wheels away in celebration but the goal was given as a Fernando own goal

Real forward Bale wheels away in celebration but the goal was given as a Fernando own goal

The challenge for the incoming Pep Guardiola is to turn Manchester City into a team to be feared in Europe

The challenge for the incoming Pep Guardiola is to turn Manchester City into a team to be feared in Europe

This is the challenge that stands before the incoming Pep Guardiola. The challenge is to turn City into a team that other top sides need to be scared of.

Guardiola will arrive in England licking his wounds. Three successive failures to reach the Champions League final with Bayern Munich have threatened to put a small dent in his gilded reputation. From that point of view, maybe club and manager can be good for each other. There is nothing more potent in management than a winner with a point to prove.

Maybe this is also the difference between the two managers, one of the many good reasons why City have swapped one for the other. Guardiola expects to be in Champions League finals. This is a competition he once threatened to turn in to his own private fiefdom.

Pellegrini, on the other hand, talks like a financial strategist, referring to incremental progress season on season. What he maybe doesn’t see is that this City squad, with all the talent in it and the money that has been spent, should expect to be doing more. 

Bale earns a hug from Cristiano Ronaldo after firing Real into a lead they did not look like relinquishing

Bale earns a hug from Cristiano Ronaldo after firing Real into a lead they did not look like relinquishing

Vincent Kompany hits the deck after suffering yet another injury problem after just 10 minutes

Vincent Kompany hits the deck after suffering yet another injury problem after just 10 minutes

Kompany limps off after appearing to injure his thigh and was replaced by Eliaquim Mangala

Kompany limps off after appearing to injure his thigh and was replaced by Eliaquim Mangala

Certainly Wednesday night will have given City and their executives an insight in to what this competition is really all about. Nobody has lifted this trophy more times than Real and this year’s final will be their second in three years as they seek an 11th triumph. But the thrill clearly does not die. 

The streets outside this cavernous footballing cathedral were thronged two hours before kick-off. For a while it seemed as though it would be impossible to get everybody inside.

Many didn’t even have tickets. They were only here to see the team bus pass by. Aerial shots that appeared later on social media showed the sheer scale of the scrum as Real’s official transport crawled through the streets.

It was a scene more befitting a homecoming than a match night. But this is was what the Champions League — the European Cup — means. 

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini attempts to influence the game from the touchline

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini attempts to influence the game from the touchline

Bale attempts to dart away from Manchester City left back Gael Clichy as City struggle to cope

Bale attempts to dart away from Manchester City left back Gael Clichy as City struggle to cope

This is why the Atletico-Bayern game had reached such a fretful and bad-tempered conclusion in Bavaria the night before. 

No matter how many times you win this thing, the desire to do it again does not dissipate.

Maybe a little of that will rub off on City’s players, at least those who remain under Guardiola. He will look at this team — this performance — and wonder.

There is magic to be found in Kevin de Bruyne and great potential in Raheem Sterling and Kelechi Iheanacho. Goalkeeper Joe Hart, meanwhile, was magnificent over the two semi-final games. 

A dejected Sergio Aguero shows his frustration as City failed to get to grips with their opponents

A dejected Sergio Aguero shows his frustration as City failed to get to grips with their opponents

Ronaldo, who returned to the side after missing the first leg, strikes at goal at the Bernabeu

Ronaldo, who returned to the side after missing the first leg, strikes at goal at the Bernabeu

But what of Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero? What of David Silva’s battered ankles and Vincent Kompany’s strung-out calf muscles?

They are the heart of what looked a few years ago as though it may become a truly great team, a team that ultimately never quite made it.

City left everything out there on the Bernabeu pitch. They were not found wanting for application and endeavour. But it never looked like a tie between equals.

Pellegrini, as hard as it sounds, has not greatly improved Manchester City. Guardiola must change this.

City have been putting bad teams to bed for years, but what about the really good ones?


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