Jose Mourinho, the Real Madrid coach, twisted the knife into Roberto Mancini last night, expressing astonishment at Manchester City's "amazing" Champions League elimination and declaring that it would not be tolerated by his own club.
Mourinho left the pitch without shaking his Italian counterpart's hand and there is no love lost between the two. The Portuguese rubbed salt into the wounds of City's pitifully poor Group D campaign, by declaring: "It is good that it is City eliminated because Roberto can work without any problems, because if it was Madrid the press would not let me return to Madrid!
"When you look at the array of players they have it is amazing that they have been eliminated at the group stage for two years running. They had thousands of attacking options – limitless options – and we had just 10 men [tonight] but we held on."
Mancini, whose job is not in any jeopardy following City's early exit, was indignant about the notion that he might be dismissed for the campaign, stating that it would take years for the club to win the Champions League, despite the millions thrown at the club by their Abu Dhabi owners.
"No. Why? Why?" Mancini replied, when the notion of dismissal was put to him. "I think that the season is long – you have the Champions League, FA Cup, Premier League. If we think we can win a Champions League after two years I think that we are crazy. I think we need to improve as a team. I don't have fears [for my job]."
Mancini twice said that six or seven clubs in world football remained superior to his own – who may be without their captain and centre -back Vincent Kompany for Sunday's visit to Chelsea. Kompany left the Etihad Stadium on crutches last night after Cristiano Ronaldo fell onto his leg when they went into a challenge.
"Chelsea tried to win the Champions League for 10 years and they didn't win in probably their best moment, when [Didier] Drogba was young and they had Lampard and [Ashley] Cole," Mancini argued. "They won last year when no one thought they could. It is difficult. We need to be passionate for this and to improve our team.
"You need to win the first two games. You can't make mistakes. I think there are a lot of teams better than us in the Champions League. We didn't go to that [next] stage. We can't do anything now."
Mancini admitted that this season's Champions League campaign was even worse than last season, which also saw them eliminated before Christmas. City do see Champions League success as their way to establish themselves as one of the top half-dozen names in world football and Mancini's argument will not wash indefinitely.
Mourinho expressed muted regret that Roberto Di Matteo had been sacked at his former club, Chelsea. "I'm never happy when a manager is sacked – never, because it happens to them and it can happen to me," he said.
"I'm never happy and I never enjoy it for him. I always feel sorry for him and his family because our lives are very, very similar. But everybody knows I like my old teams… to win so I always wish good to the managers of my former clubs.
"So I wish good to [Rafael] Benitez."