‘Passion, tactics, and a lot of swearing – I know Mancini will be ready for England’

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July 12, 2021
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    Micah Richards

    England v Italy in Euro 2020 final
    Date: Sunday, 11 July Time: 20:00 BST Venue: Wembley Stadium, London Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app

    If he was up against anyone else apart from England, I'd be desperate for Italy manager Roberto Mancini to win Sunday's Euro 2020 final.

    I loved Mancini when he was my boss at Manchester City, and he loved me too. It's fair to say not all the other City players felt the same way though, because he was super intense and he did not take any prisoners if you did something he didn't like.

    He's so charismatic and passionate, and he wouldn't change his ways for anyone. His motto was "we are all in this together" and he gave you a simple choice – you did things his way, or you were out.

    Watching Italy over the past few weeks, it's clear their players have completely bought into his ideas, and his approach.

    I'm delighted he has shown again what a great manager he is, not that I ever doubted it. I won't be sending him a 'good luck' text on Sunday like I usually would before a big game though.

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    A different challenge for Southgate

    Win or lose, Mancini is a very emotional person and at City some people found him hard to put up with every day.

    Put it this way, he didn't deliberately teach me how to swear in Italian but he did it so often in training and during games that you learned those words quickly enough, believe me.

    That's why I thought international football would suit his personality better, because there's usually a bit more breathing space between games. I was under the impression that he was a bit more relaxed when this tournament started because nobody really expected very much from Italy beforehand.

    That will have gone out of the window now. He will be totally pumped up for Sunday and ready for battle in every way.

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    I've been massively impressed by England boss Gareth Southgate and his tactical decisions in each match that have helped us reach the final, but going head-to-head with Mancini is a completely different challenge.

    We saw a classic Mancini performance from Italy in their semi-final win over Spain, where he tried different things during the match and kept reacting to what was happening the whole time.

    They played a lot more offensively earlier in the tournament against lesser teams but, against Spain, he tried everything to find the right balance to win the game. It reminded me of what he was like at City.

    At first he pressed high, but when Spain attacked strongly he retreated into a defensive position and looked to hit them on the counter. When Federico Chiesa scored after a quick break, I just thought "wow, that's the Mancini I know", with all the different ideas coming out in 90 minutes.

    Tactically, he will make things very tough for England too and I know what his mindset will be like. Mancini's attitude is always "never give up" – look at their 33-game unbeaten run as proof of that.

    He has instilled that spirit in this Italy team the same way he did with us at City, so Southgate and the England players are going to have to be ready for anything. It's going to be one heck of a fight.

    'One of the best summers of my life'

    I always felt England had the players to win Euro 2020, and Southgate has brought everything together brilliantly. I've got friends in the England squad, so to see them doing so well has been amazing.

    They've done the country proud already. If they can go one step further and win it, it will be dreamland for everyone.

    The past 18 months have been horrible so I'm really happy that everyone has been able to enjoy the football during the past few weeks, especially because we have been doing so well.

    England's success has helped, obviously, but the rest of the tournament has been fantastic too. This is the first major finals I've worked on as a pundit, and it's been one of the best summers of my life.

    I've missed Roy Keane a bit, of course, and I know the feeling is mutual – he'll never admit it though.

    We usually work as a duo during the normal season but I guess he's my rival now while he's with ITV, so I've not seen him for a few weeks – we've been separated at last!

    Rio Ferdinand has stepped in to fill that hole a bit, because he has been giving me grief on social media about my fashion sense – not that he has any room whatsoever to talk there.

    I posted the 'bootcut United!' picture back at him and, since then, he has kept on going… and going! I'm ready for his next one though, so he'd better watch out.

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    It's been a lot of fun whoever I have been working with, and I just hope the people watching and listening to me at home on TV and radio can relate to me, especially when I talk about England.

    I just feel like I am a fan on there, and I am enjoying it as much as everyone else.

    I was at Wembley for BBC Radio 5 Live for our wins over Germany and Denmark, and I've never experienced an atmosphere like it at any game I've played in or watched. When I was talking on the radio it was so noisy I could not hear myself think.

    There are other things I'll never forget about this tournament too, for different reasons.

    The first game I worked on was the evening Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest while playing for the Danes against Finland.

    I was in the BBC studio with Gary Lineker and Alex Scott and we were just in shock. Football becomes irrelevant at times like that – we didn't know what was happening and, as I said at the time, all we could do was hope.

    Thankfully, the medical team at the stadium did an incredible job to save him, and Christian recovered.

    That was my moment of the tournament right there, hearing he had regained consciousness. Nothing else has mattered more than that.

    Micah Richards was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

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