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Change is afoot at Manchester United as Louis van Gaal switches the team's formation to 3-5-2. Will he find the defensive additions to make the system work?
This was Manuel Pellegrini as we have never seen him before. Even on Thursday, when the Chilean claimed there is only one club in Manchester, there were caveats: "If we only consider this season", "you cannot forget what United has done in previous years".
But after Jonas Eriksson awarded Barcelona a penalty and Martin Demichelis a red card on Tuesday night, the Manchester City manager let loose. It was an astonishing and entirely unexpected attack that saw the assembled journalists rubbing their hands with delight. Previously, persuading Pellegrini to say anything of interest was like getting blood from a stone. Now the veins were open.
"The referee didn't have any control of the game," said Pellegrini. "I think in the whole match we didn't have a referee with impartiality to both teams." There was no outburst, no raising of the voice or arms in the manner of Jose Mourinho. What was strange about Pellegrini's seething bitterness is that he segued from one answer to the next; no indication of what was about to come, head lowered, with that furrowed brow finding even more skin to crease. And yet, suddenly, the pin had been pulled from the grenade.
"I think it is a mistake to nominate a referee that has had problems with Barcelona," Pellegrini continued, suggesting that Eriksson had "rearranged" things in favour of City's opponents to make up for a bad call in Barcelona's group-stage clash with AC Milan. He was asked to repeat his claim, perhaps in case UEFA's disciplinary panel had been distracted: "Maybe he made mistakes in Milan. To have the same the referee here, I repeat, is a mistake."
Eriksson, a self-made millionaire who can afford the lawsuit, was guilty of several poor decisions. Arsene Wenger criticised the referee after he failed to spot Robert Lewandowski's elbow on Laurent Koscielny in Arsenal's loss to Borussia Dortmund at the Emirates, but on this occasion Eriksson turned the tie into a non-contact sport. Except for when Javier Mascherano hauled Alvaro Negredo to the ground in a headlock, of course.
There was no dispute over Demichelis' dismissal, while Eriksson was also justified in awarding a penalty after the defender's slide tackle continued into the box. But Pellegrini argued that the Swede isn't used to taking charge of big matches. It was a remark that was awfully dismissive of Djurgårdens v Norrköping, and one that rather contradicts Eriksson's selection for Euro 2012.
The question is why Pellegrini reacted in such an unusual manner. Until now he has been calmness personified, and he must have known the punishment he risked by arguing that Eriksson was biased. Was it merely an attempt to take the pressure off his team following a disappointing result? No. By addressing a specific incident from Barcelona's 1-1 draw with AC Milan in October, it was clear that his concerns were genuine.
Perhaps it was the frustration of his team's chances imploding in a single moment - or the nagging guilt that comes with placing so much faith in Demichelis. Or maybe the manager was driven to such an uncharacteristic display of anger by the uncomfortable truth that City's journey is only just beginning, despite his target of five trophies in five years. The Chilean is part of a hugely exciting project at the Etihad but, as Barcelona proved on Tuesday, City still have a long way to go to rival a club on which they intend to model themselves. At least Pellegrini can look forward to the best seat in the house when the two teams reconvene on March 12.
Matt Stanger at the Etihad - follow him on Twitter.