Atlético coach Gregorio Manzano surprised reporters on Friday by giving a press conference about the current state of affairs at the club following Thursday’s loss to Athletic Bilbao.
Rojiblanco fans and the media alike have speculated that the manager’s days at the Vicente Calderón, after a month-long slump and seven-game winless streak, could be numbered.
In a MARCA poll published on Friday, which asks if Manzano should be fired, 87 per cent of the over 2,800 participants feel it’s time for the 55-year-old to go.
Late Thursday evening, Atleti president Enrique Cerezo told Spanish radio station COPE, “We continue to feel that we have a great manager. To think otherwise makes no sense.”
Cerezo continued: “At this time I can say that nothing will happen on Sunday, but I am not a psychic and I don’t want to guess anyone’s future.”
While Cerezo feels it would be senseless to think Manzano will be given the boot, his words aren’t exactly the most reassuring; neither is Atlético’s recent history of sacking roughly what feels like one coach per season.
Nonetheless, Manzano is confident he will be leading the team into next week.
“Fear? I don’t fear anything,” he said in the impromptu press conference.
“In football, sometimes there are situations where things that aren’t positive happen. I admit to the negative streak and I hold myself responsible for it.
“It is not a novel streak, I have lived other negative ones and I have overcome them. I’ve experienced situations like this one before. I can list examples.”
The former Sevilla boss continues to insist that a single victory can right the ship.
“I have faith in my work and in the work of the squad,” he said.
“All we need is a positive result to break out of this. I am here before you to communicate to you that we are hurting, remorseful and our bodies ache after yesterday’s match.
“This morning we performed an analysis, first with the dressing room and later with the coaching staff. It’s a turning point and from now on we have to try to climb the steps up to the top.”
Manzano then had special words aimed at the Colchonero faithful ahead of this weekend’s Día de las Peñas festivities at the Calderón, when we host Real Zaragoza.
“With the situation that will be experienced on Sunday at our stadium, as it is a day of celebration, of unity, I hope that’s the way it is and not a day of confrontation, and that [the fans] help us through these hard times,” he said.
“The players are going to give their all for them and I hope that we can have a starting point.
“That’s the message I want to send out.”
Manzano spoke to the players in the dressing room
Prior to the press conference, ‘Goyo’ held a meeting with his players in which he told them they cannot “fall apart” the way they did in the second half of Thursday’s loss.
Reporters asked Manzano what else he told the squad.
“It was incomprehensible how [we fell apart] after their first goal,” he said.
“That can’t happen. No one is going to give us anything for free. No matter where you are, if you don’t run for 90 minutes you will end up being surprised like yesterday. We are all on the same boat. We know who we represent.
“That was the message.”
Reyes apologises to Manzano
Telemadrid cameras seemed to have caught Jose Antonio Reyes, who was replaced by Eduardo Salvio in the 58th minute of Thursday’s clash, saying, as he walked off the pitch, “He can sub out his whore of a mother.”
The winger was clearly angry with the manager’s decision to remove him from the game and fans, with the memory of former Atleti manager Quique Sánchez Flores’ feud with ex-Atlético striker Diego Forlán still fresh on their minds, began to fear the worst.
But Manzano assured Reyes himself approached him Friday morning to apologise for his behavior.
“I didn’t see what he did,” said Manzano.
“He’s the one who spoke to me. It was honourable of him as a player. He’s a kid who, lately, things haven’t been going well for. I prefer players who get upset about getting taken out and don’t get comfortable.
“He has spoken to me and the matter is settled. I prefer that the players who don’t play be angry about it.
“He has apologised to me and that was honourable of him.”