MANCHESTER, May 9 – Manuel Pellegrini could not conceal his disappointment after his final home game as Manchester City manager ended in a damaging 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Sunday.
The result means that City’s hopes of finishing in the Premier League’s top four and qualifying for the Champions League are no longer in their own hands, raising the prospect that Pellegrini’s successor, Pep Guardiola, will start life at the club in the Europa League.
City must win at Swansea City in their final league game next Sunday and hope that Manchester United drop points in one of their two last games or that Arsenal lose at home to bottom club Aston Villa.
Addressing a half-full Etihad Stadium after the final whistle, Pellegrini told City’s fans: “It was not the way we wanted to finish the season. We wanted to qualify for the final of the Champions League and win our game today, for the next Champions (League).
“But for me they were three wonderful years of working, three unforgettable years. So all I can say to the fans is thanks for all. I will never forget you.
“Most of all, don’t change. Continue the same way because this team needs you and I’m sure that next year you will be a very successful team in all the competitions. Thanks for all, and I’ll see you.”
City twice led at a sun-soaked Etihad on Sunday, through Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne, only for Arsenal to hit back twice via goals from Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez.
City reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time this season, but were eliminated by Real Madrid on Wednesday after a tame 1-0 defeat in the Spanish capital.
Pellegrini, 62, had earlier steered the club to glory in the League Cup, having also done so in his 2013-14 debut season, when City claimed a Premier League and League Cup double.
While the Chilean addressed the fans, and with his players looking on, the home supporters unfurled a giant sky-blue banner bearing the message: “GRACIAS MANUEL”.
The match programme contained a message from Emirati club chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak thanking Pellegrini and hailing his “engaging approach, integrity and humility”.
In his own notes, Pellegrini describing managing City as a “privilege” and said that he would “take nothing but great memories” to his next job.
Meanwhile, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who in common with Pellegrini has been on the receiving end of taunts from former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, praised his outgoing City counterpart by saying: “I believe overall Manuel Pellegrini has done very well at Manchester City.
“When you look at the players today, how they fought for him, that is a great credit to a manager.
“And as a man he is liked by everybody and he has a lot of dignity and respect for the game, and I respect that.”