Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, has insisted that his relationship with the man in whose hands his future beyond this season lies is "fantastic" and that he will not be sacked next month, though he admits that he has been in football for long enough to know that he can lose his job.
Mancini believes that the title race will be over if his side lose at Arsenal tomorrow and Manchester United beat Queen's Park Rangers, but evidence of Mancini's capacity to arrest a slide into poor form and internecine strife may be almost as significant for City's chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, who will review the Italian's position at the end of the season. "I've been in this world for a long time and I know you can lose this [job] title," Mancini said. "I think we are progressing but I don't decide [whether I stay or go]. I do the best for my job and, after that, I don't decide this situation."
If United, with their easier run-in, open up a six-point lead or more before the end of the season, the Italian will be damaged and may come to view his attempts to maintain regular contact with Mubarak as judicious. His predecessor Mark Hughes did not take Mubarak up on his offer to call regularly, after being given his mobile number.
"My relationship with Khaldoon is fantastic," Mancini said. "If he sacked me at the end of the season or next year, I would say that every manager who works with Khaldoon is very lucky. He is a really good man. This doesn't change my opinion about him or the club. But I don't have this problem because I will continue in my job. I'm sure that this club has arrived at the top. With two or three more players after this year, this club will start to win, and when it starts to win it will be two or three titles every year. Now it has arrived."
The planning for next season has already started, with City understood to be in a strong early position to sign Lille's Eden Hazard. The Belgian will be a target regardless of whether or not Mancini stays, though the manager said he hoped his club's Abu Dhabi owners would recognise the strides he has made even if United do take the title.
"I know football very well and I left Inter after seven trophies with a four-year contract. In football anything can happen in any moment," Mancini said. "This championship can change in one week. The same regarding my future. When you choose this job you know anything can happen in any moment."
Mancini exuded cool as he addressed the fact that his position is not guaranteed – just as he has throughout this season, a fourth under Abu Dhabi ownership and one in which the owners wanted the domestic title. But it has been a different Mancini in the rarefied match environment. The pitchside criticism of his midfielder James Milner during last Saturday's 3-3 draw with Sunderland and the refusal to shake the Stoke City manager Tony Pulis's hand after drawing there have revealed a manager who can be affected by the pressure. He resigned his position at Inter in his post-match press conference after a Champions League defeat to Liverpool in 2008, rescinding the decision a day later but leaving at the end of the season.
On the question of whether a strong finish is significant even if City don't take the title, Mancini said: "We can't think this now. We should think that we can still win the title. There are seven games to the end with one derby to play at home. We can win this title. It's important we get the maximum points we can. Last year we got 71 points and now we've got 71 with seven games left." Mancini, who has Joleon Lescott and Vincent Kompany back together, with Sergio Aguero a contender to start, said he still didn't think Carlos Tevez was capable of playing a full 90 minutes.