The fragile relationship between the Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini, and his captain, Carlos Tevez, has been tested further, with the two involved in a heated exchange during the half-time interval of the club's 2-1 win over Newcastle United.
Mancini walked into the dressing room to find Tevez addressing the players on a performance the striker did not consider acceptable. He took issue with one of the points Tevez had made and told the player to sit down, which did not please him. A heated exchange ensued and Mancini told Tevez to get changed because he was going to be substituted. Tevez then followed the manager out of the dressing room before the two resolved the issue amicably in the Italian's office, clearing the way for Tevez to play a full part in the second half.
City consider the matter closed and in an attempt to smooth things over with the 26-year-old, who insists he had the club's interests at heart, Mancini has allowed him an extra day off to visit his family during the international break. Mancini flew to Italy immediately after the Newcastle game to visit his father, Aldo, who remains fragile – though not in danger – after heart trouble this summer.
Tevez looked out of sorts at times during the game and looked particularly unhappy when James Milner failed to spot that he had stopped his run into the six-yard box during one City counter-attack, crossing low instead and out of his reach. Brian Kidd admitted that there was a lively atmosphere during the interval. "There was an awful lot said between the group at half-time, but the lads showed a great response in the second half. It showed how badly they wanted to win."
City's midfielder Nigel de Jong learnt yesterday that he has been punished for his leg-breaking tackle on Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa by being dropped by the Netherlands.
Though Kidd insisted De Jong's tackle was not malicious, the Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, has decided De Jong needs to be taught a lesson after the reckless challenge, even though the Football Association confirmed it would take no action. Martin Atkinson, the referee at Eastlands, decided it did not even merit a yellow card, and the FA will not pursue the matter because the official saw the incident at the time.
However, Van Marwijk has left De Jong out of the squad for the Euro 2012 qualifiers with Moldova and Sweden, and will speak to the midfielder about his overly aggressive approach. Van Marwijk said: "I just informed the squad and told them I saw no other possibility. I will discuss this matter with Nigel, but right now we have to focus on the upcoming two matches."
Earlier, the Dutch coach had described the tackle on Ben Arfa as "wild". He said: "I've seen the pictures back. It was a wild and unnecessary offence. He went in much too hard. It is unfortunate, especially since he does not need to do it. The funny thing is that the referee did not even show a yellow card for it. But I have a problem with the way Nigel needlessly looks to push the limit. I am going to speak to him."
Van Marwijk's tough stance follows criticism throughout the Netherlands for the way De Jong clattered into Ben Arfa in Sunday's game. The challenge left the Frenchman with a broken tibia and fibula in his left leg, and he is expected to be out for at least six months.
De Jong is building up a reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the world, following his chest-high kick on Xabi Alonso of Spain during the World Cup final. He did not endear himself by saying: "I don't regret anything. I never intended to hurt him."