Roberto Mancini was given the personal backing of Manchester City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak in the dressing room after Wednesday night's defeat to Tottenham Hotspur but that has done nothing to quell the disquiet among some of his most important players.
Mubarak made an impromptu speech to the City players at Eastlands after the game in which he commiserated with them for the defeat that meant they missed out on qualification for the Champions League next season. The City chairman, the direct representative of owner Sheikh Mansour, said that he was looking forward to next season's campaign when Mancini will have had the benefit of pre-season with the players.
It was a clear endorsement of the Italian manager, who has a three-year contract, although he has never looked entirely in control of the side since taking over following the sacking of Mark Hughes in December.
For a core of City players – chiefly Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Stephen Ireland – the club's immediate and clear backing for Mancini will make them consider their futures over the summer. As he left the pitch on Wednesday night, the left-back Wayne Bridge – who has also clashed with the City manager – clearly ignored the handshake Mancini offered him.
The criticism of Mancini from within the City camp is that his relationship with individuals such as Tevez and Bellamy has deteriorated badly as the pressure has grown towards the end of the season. Tevez, coveted by Real Madrid, has been told publicly by Mancini he is free to leave and he too ignored his manager's handshake after the defeat of Birmingham City on 11 April.
There were further grumblings after the 1-0 defeat to Spurs that the players regarded the Italian as negative in his approach to the match – in particular, by forcing his wingers Bellamy and Adam Johnson to focus on their defensive work. As for Ireland, he has fallen out of favour since Mancini took over at the club. There is also a general unhappiness with the Italian's training methods and the amount of time that the players have to spend in hotels around games.
With a radical overhaul of the squad expected in the summer, it appears Mancini will sanction the sale of his most militant players. The speech from Mubarak was regarded as a major statement of intent from the City hierarchy that they intend to back their manager. One source said that for those players who had fallen out with Mancini, it was a "kick in the teeth".
Ireland admitted yesterday: "There is a question mark over next year for me," he said. "I don't know what will happen. I am contracted to City and all I can do is carry on and performing well when I am called upon."
Mubarak gave Mancini his public backing yesterday, via the club's website, and said the manager would be given "all the tools he needs" to make the club a success. "There is no speculation," Mubarak said. "Roberto has done an excellent job. I am very happy and Sheikh Mansour is delighted with the way he has organised the team.
"With a good pre-season to prepare for next season he [Mancini] is going to do a wonderful job for us next season and for many years.
"I have the highest regard for him as a human being and as a person and believe he is definitely the right manager for this club for many years.
We made a big leap last year," he said. "It is a different team now, especially in the last couple of months.
"This is a much more organised team. Roberto is driven and committed. He has a winning mentality. He wants to achieve things and has the interests of the club at heart. What he needs this summer is time to prepare. We know the areas which need to be improved and the manager will be given all the tools he needs to be well prepared for next season.Reuse content