Manchester City fly off to a post-season tour of the United States this afternoon, with their left-back, Aleksandar Kolarov, accused for the second time this season of abusing members of the crowd.
The Serbian defender was said to have made gestures to some City fans during the second half of a flat and listless final game of the season that was pockmarked by chants of support for the deposed manager, Roberto Mancini. The club could not confirm or deny what had happened but at Newcastle in December the defender was cleared of using abusive language to a group of supporters carrying an Albanian flag.
Although Mancini's likely successor, Manuel Pellegrini, will not be with City in New York and St Louis, where they play another temporarily managerless club in Chelsea, he could start work sooner than expected. Pellegrini's club, Malaga, did not play in La Liga this weekend but defeats for Getafe and Seville have all but ensured they will qualify for the Europa League, which was the 59-year-old's stated target before the season began. Pellegrini was reluctant to leave Malaga until qualification was achieved and the board may now choose to release him before the final game of the season, at home to Deportivo La Coruna.
He will face a tough task to win over those Manchester City fans who chanted Mancini's name long and loud on Sunday. Brian Kidd, one of the few remaining members of Mancini's coaching staff to have survived the bloody cull, said he could understand the show of support for the Italian.
On Saturday, Mancini had taken out a full-page advert in the Manchester Evening News thanking City's supporters for the last three years. It was a classy and intelligent gesture in what, despite a reported £7m severance package, has become a bitter divorce.
"I can understand the cheers for the boss," said Kidd. "He would have been disappointed if there hadn't been anything after all he has done here. We have fallen short of the standards we set last season but it was not from a lack of effort.
"I don't have to say anything to the fans. They have proved themselves over the years. It is their community and their club and I know they will respond because they have since the year dot.
"Emotionally and right through the club, this has been a week that has taken a lot out of people. Now there is a new manager coming in and hopefully that will be done as quickly as possible so he can assess the situation."
Before the FA Cup final, which marked the end of the Mancini era at Eastlands, the club captain, Vincent Kompany, said he expected "a busy summer" and City have already been linked with a bid for Radamel Falcao, perhaps the most sought-after striker in the world. His contract at Atletico Madrid has a £54m buy-out clause which City may be prepared to meet. It will be some statement of intent but it will be matched by significant departures.
Kolarov is one of a number of players who paraded around the Etihad Stadium with a banner thanking the crowd for its support, who are unlikely to be at Manchester City next season. Kolo Touré and Costel Pantilimon are definite departures while, until his sacking, Mancini suggested that Joleon Lescott, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko had limited futures at the Etihad. Neither Maicon nor Javi Garcia of the summer signings who proved such inadequate reinforcements for the club's defence of its title, have remotely lived up to expectations or their salary. They cannot expect long to survive their manager.
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