Manchester City to axe manager Roberto Mancini
Roberto Mancini’s reign as Manchester City boss is hanging by a thread, with Frank Rijkaard being lined up as a replacement.
After two league defeats in a row and growing player unrest, the Italian’s days the club are numbered.
Bookies have named Rijkaard and former Northern Ireland skipper Martin O’Neill as possible successors, but the Kilrea man is close to confirming a mega-bucks deal with Saudi Arabian club Al-Hilal. That would leave the former Barcelona boss as the favourite to land the Eastlands post.
Mancini said claims of internal strife at City were “rubbish” but ahead of the trip to face Lech Poznan of Poland in the Europa League on Thursday, Kolo Toure admitted there were “problems” at the club.
Public arguments between players, and that ill-advised golfing trip to St Andrews — that sparked an apology from Gareth Barry yesterday — have led to claims that Mancini has lost the dressing room. “I regret that, it was naive of me,” said Barry. “It shouldn't have happened.”
Kolo Toure has admitted that there are “problems” at the club, with Vincent Kompany and Emmanuel Adebayor the latest two players to row publicly at the weekend, and insisted that rows must be resolved “in the dressing room and the training camp”.
Mancini appeared to be in denial of the internal strife that has beset his club by describing any suggestion of it as “rubbish” last night, but has called a team meeting on this subject once before this season.
At City, we see a group of players with huge pay and hugely differential pay, operating under a manager whose nurturing instincts are by no means the most refined. A recipe for disaster.
One of the new pieces of “evidence” of a rocking ship — Yaya Toure's immediate departure from Eastlands having been substituted at half-time in the 3-0 home defeat to Arsenal — isn't quite what it seems.
Mancini was concerned about Toure's ankle seizing up and was happy for him to go home. But the decision to grant Carlos Tevez the same indulgence is something quite different.
Tevez is due back in Manchester today after several days in Argentina and is set to begin treatment on a dead leg, but the club could not really afford the mini-break as the likelihood of him being fit to play Manchester United next week is still in the balance.
Tevez is being coddled; that much seemed apparent from the moment he was bestowed with the City captaincy in August.
It is hard to believe there is any love lost where Tevez and Mancini are concerned. The manager's insistence that his dressing-room argument with Tevez after a drab first half against Newcastle last month was all in a day's work was highly unconvincing. A manager and his captain simply don't go toe-to-toe in the dressing room, as they did that day.
But the dissent reaches further. Adam Johnson's adverse reaction to being substituted against Liverpool in August did not go down well with a manager who believes the winger needs to develop some modesty. A little more nurturing might not go amiss in Johnson's case.
If Mancini's relationship with his own recruits is challenging, then what hope with those he has inherited?
Dealings with Shaun Wright-Phillips are strained. The player's demands for parity with the high rollers are being waged more publicly by his father, Ian Wright, than the club would like.
Emmanuel Adebayor has the salary but has lacked the opportunities, despite being allocated the No 9 jersey in the hope that he would rise to the challenge.
The general assumption has been that City's newly assembled side would gel, though that aspiration is based on a state of harmony.
But City, with their breakneck pace of development, are the club at greater risk of falling apart than any other in the Premier League.