City going backwards under Pep
Guardiola's bizarre tactics were naive and suicidal
Khaldoon Al Mubarak finds himself in a bit of a pickle.
The Manchester City chairman is tasked with building the Abu Dhabi brand by turning his club into a European powerhouse.
So he likes losing matches about as much as he enjoys losing face.
Yesterday morning (Singapore time), he suffered the indignity of both when City became the first side in Champions League history to go out after scoring five goals in the first leg.
The 5-3 advantage was clinically erased by Monaco, who won their home fixture 3-1 yesterday morning to reach the Champions League last eight on the away-goal rule (6-6 on aggregate).
Al Mubarak would consider firing any other manager who wasn't called Pep Guardiola.
The Spaniard's name saves him. His resume buys time, but not immunity from Al Mubarak's prosecution. He faces an awkward post-mortem with City's axe-man.
Under Guardiola, City have regressed. Under Guardiola, the club drift through a campaign that will now be less successful than Manuel Pellegrini's final season.
Manchester City became the first side in Champions League history to go out after scoring five goals in the first leg.
High-flying Monaco have now scored 126 goals in all competitions this season.
Under Guardiola, City are getting away with murder in the media (imagine if this defeat had happened under Pellegrini, or Jose Mourinho, or Arsene Wenger.)
Under Guardiola, Al Mubarak is losing face faster than a Wolverine victim. And that's the kind of PR embarrassment that should keep the manager awake at night.
Defeat hurts City, but it cripples the owners' global agenda.
Al Mubarak's words are already coming back to haunt him.
"He will transform our team to a new level," he said of Guardiola, when the club announced their new manager last February, with Pellegrini still in charge.
As if to spite his tactless employers, Pellegrini went and picked up the League Cup, a top-four finish in the EPL and was unlucky to lose in the Champions League semi-finals to Real Madrid.
If Guardiola doesn't win the FA Cup, he'll end up with nothing.
Of all the scenarios presented when the messianic man from the Catalans was unveiled, a trophy-less campaign wasn't one of them.
City managers have been sacked for better seasons than this one. And Guardiola must sheepishly acknowledge that the Monaco loss was self-inflicted.
Protecting a two-goal advantage against a free-scoring French side, Guardiola sent out a formation close to a 4-1-5. As a result, the first-half was one of the most inept City performances in recent memory.
Fernandinho, an ageing Brazilian born with attacking instincts, was the only defensive midfielder ahead of a creaking back four.
If goalkeeper Willy Caballero is included, three of the back five are out of contract in the summer and all three should head for the exit.
Only John Stones remains in his twenties. Only Stones retained any sense of pride.
Monaco's Benjamin Mendy and Thomas Lemar, just 22 and 21 respectively, picked away at Bacary Sagna as if he were a rotting carcass.
Kylian Mbappe danced towards the game's pinnacle with his 11th goal in as many games, constantly taunting Aleksandar Kolarov and Fernandinho.
The contrast between Mbappe's youthful, anarchic pace and City's plodders was alarming, like a kid toying with a wheezing grandparent.
In his TV analysis, Rio Ferdinand suggested that City's nascent stars, like Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, should learn from the defeat to become stronger competitors.
It was a nice line, but a false one. Mbappe turned only 18 in December. Fellow goal-scorer Tiemoue Bakayoko bossed the midfield at 22. Monaco's other goal-scorer, Henrique Fabinho, is 23 and the oldest midfielder in the side.
Age is irrelevant at Monaco. At City, it's a hackneyed excuse, especially for a club that had £150 million (S$258.7m) to spend in pre-season.
City were handicapped by the bizarrely naive tactics of their manager.
When he lost 4-2 at Leicester City, Guardiola famously declared that he was "not a coach for tackles", reiterating principles born in La Masia's incubator.
But he has the wrong players at City - and the wrong competition in the EPL - to persist with such puritanical ideals.
His gullible 4-1-5 line-up granted time, space and the initiative to high-flying Monaco who've now scored 126 goals this season.
Guardiola sent his players out like a fisherman throwing a side of bloodied meat overboard to tempt passing sharks.
Monaco feasted on the Spaniard's tactical inflexibility.
If Guardiola continues to insist that he is "not a coach for tackles", then he will not be a coach for trophies either, not at Manchester City.