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Looking forward

Barring a huge volte face from the board it appears that after previous summers of managerial change and uncertainty, we will close out a season with it being clear that the incumbent manager is most definitely remaining in charge.

After much rumour and speculation, it was confirmed by Khaldoon al-Mubarak in this interview on the official site that Roberton Mancini has the unequivocal backing of those in charge:

"Roberto's going to do a wonderful job for us for many years," Mubarak told Manchester City's official website.

"Roberto is our manager. He's done an excellent job coming in mid-season, organising the team. I'm very happy, and [owner] Sheikh Mansour's delighted with the way he's organised the team."

Mubarak added: "We believe he is definitely the right manager for this club for many years. What he needs this summer is time to prepare and really organise ourselves.

"We know the areas that need to be improved within the club. A good pre-season followed with a good start to the season and I'm really excited for next year."

To have this confirmation is indeed important. Throughout Mancini's short tenure there has been much rumour - ranging from Jose Mourinho, Juventus and contract escape clauses that suggested his time at the club would be a brief one.

Having nailed their colours to Mancini's mast so decisively in ditching Mark Hughes at the end of 2009, it would have been a huge surprise for them to renege on their conviction at this stage, and with a paucity of likely alternatives (Mourinho is clearly not a candidate by the way) it is the correct decision to take.

It will be interesting to see how Mancini operates this summer, having a full off-season to put his stamp on the squad instead of working with the players brought in by Hughes. Will their be wholesale and radical change, or a more subtle approach with one or two additions in key areas (full-back, creative midfield)? 

Naturally there are areas to look at. Hints of player unrest continue, and it would not be a surprise to see up to half a dozen departures this summer whilst Mancini seeks to find a balance in the squad. The captaincy issue may be pressing with better candidates than Kolo Toure surely available and there are tactical concerns as in big games at the end of the season, we have simply not risen to the task and for all of our attacking firepower have been disappointingly impotent in attack in crucial games.

I'm no wholly convinced though that missing out on the Champions League this season will affect transfer policy too much. At this stage of the clubs progression I don't feel that the lure of the Champions League will be sufficient to make the truly elite players on the market arrive at Eastlands. With only a handful of genuine top level players available, bigger and more established sides I'm sure would still prevail. 

This isn't to say that failing to qualify for the Champions League isn't disappointing - naturally it is but there is logic in the suggestion that a more natural progression into the Champions League aligned with an increased awareness of the club could be beneficial for a long term transfer strategy.

It will also perhaps allow for a greater focus on the league next season, and without a Champions League distraction. The point was made on the Guardian Football Weekly podcast that even with one or two quality signings we would have improved whereas Chelsea, United and Arsenal do not look set to really strengthen, leaving us perhaps even a favourite to win the title, let along finish in the top four.

A likely fifth-placed finish, Carling Cup semi-final and record totals in terms of points and goals point to a successful season despite ultimately falling short.

Plenty to be positive about, and more importantly, plenty to look forward to.