Mancini feeling the heat

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By Ian Ladyman

The decision of referee Peter Rasmussen not to include details of Roberto Mancini’s peculiar post-match behaviour in his report from Tuesday night’s Champions League game at the Etihad Stadium has, by all accounts, left Uefa feeling a little baffled.

The European governing body were expecting to ban Manchester City manager Mancini for a game. Instead, they were left with their hands tied yesterday when Rasmussen’s match report arrived at their offices featuring not a mention of the Italian’s furious march on to the field after his side’s 2-2 draw with Ajax.

This is despite the Danish referee saying yesterday: ‘It’s the first time I have experienced such a chaotic end of a match.’

Mancini will be relieved the incident has not been mentioned. He would not have relished watching City’s clash at home to Real Madrid later this month from a distance.

Nevertheless, memories of his antics during and after Tuesday’s game will remain vivid for a while and it is hard not to wonder what impact his state of agitation is having on his players.

Mancini is known not to read newspapers or listen much to what people say about him. It’s a habit he formed when managing in the goldfish bowl of Italian football and serves as self protection.

What the former Lazio and Inter coach must realise, however, is that his players do read newspapers and websites and watch TV.

So any suggestion that Mancini is not a man fully in control at the moment will only be reinforced by images from Tuesday of him berating referees, gesturing at TV cameramen and, of course, arguing with his own players.

After the Ajax game, City defender Pablo Zabaleta was asked about this and gave a very diplomatic reply. ‘Everyone was angry, not just the manager,’ said Zabaleta, who was also seen berating the officials after the final whistle. ‘We were all asking why the referee didn’t give a penalty and why the assistant lifted the flag in the air.

‘Roberto is the manager and sometimes he has to shout and argue with the players. It’s normal.

‘I think it’s not just Roberto. When any manager sees you drop points in a crucial game they get very passionate and angry. This is all that has happened.’

Zabaleta’s post-match outburst was out of character. He is one of the game’s more grounded and sensible individuals. If every dressing room in Europe was populated by men like him, there would be little to write about apart from football.

Players will tell you, though, that many — especially the weak — take their lead from the coach. If they believe he is rattled it unsettles them, too. In a football club dressing room, perception is everything.

To suggest Mancini is at war with his players would be untrue. There is a faction, though, who are grumbling away in the background — the identities of some of them would shock you — and they will certainly have viewed their manager’s behaviour on Tuesday with interest.

Mancini is not the only manager to argue with officials at full time. At Anfield last Sunday, Newcastle’s Alan Pardew marched on to the field at the end of the game to remonstrate with Anthony Taylor about a decision he subsequently declared to have been correct.

It was the sight of Mancini arguing animatedly with Edin Dzeko with a few minutes left on Tuesday that was more illuminating.

Dzeko had only been the field 20 minutes and was hardly to blame for the mess City were in. Here the Bosnian was, though, copping an earful from his manager at close quarters on the touchline. He was, it must be said, unimpressed and the exchange between the two men perhaps gave something of an insight into the Premier League champions’ current malaise.

With Tottenham to come at home on Saturday and then Aston Villa, Madrid and Chelsea after that, it looks like a critical pre-Christmas period for City. Mancini can only hope a couple of good results calm things down.

He hopes to have playmaker David Silva back soon and that will help. Statistics show that City score more goals and create more chances when the Spaniard is in the team.

In the meantime, Mancini can only hope Zabaleta’s assertion that team spirit at the club remains intact is borne out by results.

‘Maybe one of the positives was that the team showed this spirit,’ said the Argentinian. ‘It was not easy. We conceded two goals very early but then the team did well.

‘We showed spirit and tried to beat them. That means the team maybe should have deserved three points. Everybody here wants to find the answers, I can promise you that.’ – Daily Mail

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