In a heated post-match dressing room exchange the Manchester City goalkeeper, Joe Hart, fought his corner against his manager, Roberto Mancini, after the Italian blamed him for the Robin van Persie goal which inflicted Sunday's last-minute derby defeat.
Mancini's senior players continue to be bemused and frustrated by his public criticism of them and in the fiery argument after Manchester United's victory, Hart told the manager that he had ordered Carlos Tevez to leave the defensive wall for Van Persie's free-kick – in contradiction of the Italian's orders. Hart insisted the Argentine was obstructing his view of the ball and argued that there was no way he could have known that Samir Nasri would duck behind the wall and merely stick out a leg when Van Persie's free-kick came in. If the Frenchman had stood his ground and done his job he would have taken the ball full on his face, Hart reasoned.
Mancini insisted after the defeat that he had told Tevez to stay in the wall, though Hart's own instructions were being frantically conveyed by Gareth Barry in the seconds before the set-piece which sealed United's victory and triggered a frenzied finale at the Etihad Stadium. The defensive uncertainty led Hart to lean fractionally towards the left-hand side of his net, which the wall should have covered, as the Netherlands striker approached the ball. That left Hart slightly flat-footed and unable to reach the ball delivered just inside his right post.
The City manager's relationship with Hart seemed unbreakable when he gave him the jersey over Shay Given at the start of the 2010-11 season. Hart has also emerged as one of the natural leaders of the team, noticeably for his honesty after the club's failures in Europe this season. But this has not always gone down well with Mancini and the spirit of collectivism which the squad seems to need is not there.
The febrile last minutes of Sunday's game, in which Rio Ferdinand sustained a gash above his eye after being hit by a coin, led the Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, to demand life bans for perpetrators amid signs that "deplorable" hooliganism is returning to the game. The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, called for protective netting to be used at grounds to prevent fans striking players with missiles thrown from the stands. "You've got to give consideration to possibly some netting in vulnerable areas, be it behind the goals and round the corner flags," he said.
But, although the FA has the right to impose nets on a club as part of a disciplinary hearing, the governing body does not see nets as workable and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign last night said such a move, imposing a constraint on fans, would be deeply unwelcome.
Greater Manchester Police, who made 13 arrests at the game, indicated that bringing criminal convictions against missile throwers – who also hit Wayne Rooney – would be difficult, because of the problems of viewing hours of CCTV footage and linking faces on the footage to throwers. After the 2010 Carling Cup semi-final between the sides at Eastlands, when golf balls and darts were seized from fans and a plastic cigarette lighter was hurled at United's Patrice Evra, GMP took the unusual step of publishing images of suspects in Manchester Evening News. They will do so again if they feel there is a prospect of a conviction, though the sifting process will take until the new year.
The City fan who ran on to the pitch to try to confront Ferdinand faces a lifetime ban from the club despite his apology.
City have confirmed that Matthew Stott, 21, has had his season ticket removed for the rest of the season and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty in court of a charge of pitch encroachment. "His season card has been immediately removed for the rest of the season and he has been charged to appear at court. If he is found guilty he faces a lifetime ban," said a City spokesman.