Sven Goran Eriksson doesn't tend to do "indignant" but he let it be known yesterday that hints by chairman Thaksin Shinawatra of his imminent demise have not been helpful and that his own contract provides him with all the insurance that he needs against dismissal.
There is a feeling at Manchester City that reports from Dubai about Thaksin's comments have not been exaggerated, though the non-Thai contingent of the club's hierarchy is resigned to the fact that if Thaksin has decided he wants a new manager, then there is little they can do to dissuade him. Eriksson has not been averse to a little black humour on the situation behind the scenes in the past few days, but he is clearly not enamoured with the man who signed him up to his "project". "It would have been better not saying it at this moment. But it's out there and it's not a big problem for me," he said. "I will do the job the same as if it hadn't been said. It's very difficult not to be aware of it. That's his opinion, and that's OK."
It is not so much what Thaksin has said as what he hasn't – he was asked several times to confirm Eriksson's future on Monday and failed – but the Swede clearly knows where he stands. "I already have assurances. I have a contract, so there is nothing to discuss," said Eriksson. He would actually stand to take a £1m pay-off, less than a year after receiving a compensation package from the FA worth almost £4m, if sacked.
Eriksson has already become familiar with one unanticipated down-side of having an owner with millions at his disposal but no knowledge of the game – that individual's tendency to be intoxicated when superstars' services are being touted. Ronaldinho, one such player and an individual Eriksson has never wanted, will not be joining Manchester City and the Swede also served notice yesterday that it will be he, and not Thaksin, who formulates the transfer targets. "Nobody will come here unless I have given the green light," Eriksson said. "It's not an issue at Manchester City."
The City manager has never before managed a side owned by a foreigner to the club and clearly believes that Thaksin has something to learn about the game. "One of the last things he said to me was that he thinks this team will be better next season," Eriksson said. "And he also said 'we will be better too because we will understand football better in the second year'. By 'we' he meant himself and the people around him." Had the manager played a part in that education process, he was asked. "I don't think an ex-Prime Minister needs education," he responded. But Eriksson does feel that City's good start to the season created unrealistic expectations. "Maybe we did too well in the beginning," he said.
The frustrations felt by the non-Thais at Eastlands about statements on the other side of the world have not been helped by Thaksin's disclosure that he will not, after all, be in Britain for tomorrow's home match against Portsmouth. Neither has the telecoms billionaire, scheduled to be at City's visit of Fulham next Saturday, discussed his statement about City's future with anyone at the club.
Elano, Eriksson's £8m summer signing, did little to lift the gloom when he hinted at the difficulties he had playing in a left-wing role behind a sole striker. "I had a chat with the manager because I wasn't happy at being played out wide," said the Brazilian, who has failed to recapture his dazzling autumn form. "It's not my position. My strengths are not to tackle and compete for a ball with another player." Elano declared himself happy to be back in a central position but Eriksson's decision not to start games with him has also been something he has taken up with him, the Brazilian said. The midfielder maintained that though he would be "sad" to see Eriksson go, that it is a decision for "the chairman or the people on the board."