Mancini safe despite 'nationalist' criticism
Roberto Mancini is taken aback by the levels at which his management has come under question in England, but he is nowhere near quitting Manchester City despite past evidence that he is an emotional individual prepared to walk in the face of criticism.
Mancini dramatically announced his intention to resign from Internazionale in March 2008 after a home defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League, only to reverse his decision the following day. He certainly feels he is being given a rougher ride here than in Italy and is indignant that City's fourth place in the Premier League counts for little.
Mancini has told the Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX that "the tabloids rage on us because City are headed by an Italian; I'm sorry to say, but the English are nationalists in football".
The intensity may be about to get worse with the prospect of tomorrow's visit to West Bromwich Albion – a bogey team in the Premier League era – followed by Wednesday's Manchester derby and, arguably tougher still, the 4pm televised match-up with Mark Hughes' Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday, 21 November. The media scrutiny for that weekend will be huge. Hughes' City had taken two more points from the first 10 games of last season than Mancini's have in this.
Mancini also finds the situation unusual in that at Inter he became accustomed to the president, Massimo Moratti, taking some element of criticism. At City, his owners remain in the background.
Support at the highest level of the club remained firm yesterday, with the view from Abu Dhabi being that the manager and senior management should stay positive. Even defeat tomorrow, and again to Manchester United on Wednesday, would not affect that perspective. Removing Mancini would, indeed, be grossly premature and would send the club into yet another period of rebuilding.
Mancini is still in the process of shedding those elements of the Hughes era who are not delivering. Shaun Wright-Phillips, who may be offloaded in January, was particularly poor during the 3-1 defeat to Lech Poznan in the Europa League on Thursday. Many of Mancini's own acquisitions are yet to bed in. Aleksandar Kolarov looked a great defensive addition before his first-half injury against Tottenham on the opening day of the season ruled him out until Thursday, when he returned as a substitute. David Silva is also starting to look like the asset City expected. The only major question mark is Yaya Touré, whose substantial playing time has yet to reveal exactly why his weekly pay deal comes to nearly £200,000.
City still find themselves deeply dependent upon Carlos Tevez, though. Not since January have they won a Premier League game when his name has not been on the scoresheet. Mancini has said he expects the captain, who returned from Argentina on Thursday, to be fit to play at The Hawthorns.
West Bromwich have won more points against City than against any other opposition during their various spells in the top flight. In their eight Premier League meetings, Sunday's hosts have won four, drawn two and lost two. West Bromwich have won the last three home meetings in the Premier League: 2-1 in 2008-9, 2-0 in 2005-6 and 2-0 in 2004-5.
Mancini's assistant, David Platt, insisted yesterday that the players would have to live with the pressure. "We have been catapulted into a goldfish bowl," he said. "All of a sudden we are at the forefront of things."
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