Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City boss Mancini fumes after chemical spray burns Aguero's foot

By Ian Herbert

Perhaps it is because he doesn't know how long the pay cheques will last that Roberto Mancini calls in at his newsagent in Alderley Edge each Friday morning and hands over £20 for a EuroMillions lottery ticket.

The Manchester City manager could use a change of luck, given that Sergio Aguero will miss today's critical home match against Sunderland because of a severe reaction to a chemical spray which is understood to have left his foot badly blistered and burnt. Mancini looked like he was burning, too, when he yesterday described the "stupid injury – not his fault".

As City reached the end of a week which has been vastly more trying than one without fixtures ought to have been, you could hardly say they were exuding an air of cool invincibility.

After the sideshow of Patrick Vieira's discussion of Manchester United, Mancini's lack of strikers who are fit and – to his mind – dependable is a serious one. He hopes Aguero will be back to face Arsenal a week tomorrow, though the Argentine's skin reacted badly to a spray after last week's Chelsea game.

With City sources unwilling to discuss the exact nature of Aguero's ailment, it is unclear what form of reaction he suffered. Mancini set hares running by only saying that the problem did occur at Carrington and did not involve dropping something on the foot, receiving a tackle, kicking a door or falling victim to gout.

"I'll tell you when the season is finished," he said.

He was far more forthcoming on another of his strikers, Mario Balotelli – declaring that he could not trust the 21-year-old Italian.

"No, never [I cant trust him]," Mancini said. "Mario is like this. I don't think anyone can trust Mario. But he is a top player and he can do everything. He could easily score two goals tomorrow or in the next game at Arsenal. But we can't trust him. He is a top player, he can do everything in a game, he can score three goals, he can take a red card."

This was not the most encouraging prognosis for a player who will assume greater importance if Aguero's injury keeps him out beyond today's fixture – a game that Vincent Kompany looks likely to play, Joleon Lescott will miss and, on the manager's admission, David Silva will start below his best.

"David always plays here and now maybe he is here," Mancini said, lowering his hand.

It has been the week when Balotelli's reputation for the unpredictable has reached new heights – or depths. He pitched up in his red Ferrari at the public presentation of the new Internazionale manager, Andrea Stramaccioni, walked in and for reasons as yet unknown shook hands with those behind the top table, wished the new manager luck and left. A heated exchange between Mancini and the striker occurred at Carrington 24 hours later.

"I can't take him and put him in his house for two days!" Mancini said, when the Milan episode was mentioned. "Probably the moment will arrive when he understands what he should do when he has two days off. I hope for him [he grows out of it] because he needs to improve in this. It is his job. He needs to work. He needs to rest, but he is young. I just hope he can score five or six important goals in the last eight games."

With the only other striker physically capable of starting against Martin O'Neill's side – Edin Dzeko – looking less than confident, the significance of Mancini's reconciliation with Carlos Tevez is looking more significant by the day, however Sir Alex Ferguson may say City's decision to play him is "desperate" .

"I don't think he can start but I think he can have more time," Mancini said. "It's normal, he is improving every week."

These preoccupations took the discussion a long way from verbal sparring – provoked by Vieira's assertion that recalling Paul Scholes was a sign of United's "weakness" – which is nothing new to Mancini after a career in Italy.

"Patrick is a top man, he knows what he says," said Mancini. "I think every person can say what they think. But I can't talk about these wars. It is not important what Sir Alex said [about Tevez]. I have a big respect for him but it is not important. The same for him in what I say. For me and for him it is important to win this championship, it is not important the words we can say on this.

"[Tevez] is again available to play for us. This is normal, I think. [Playing him is] 'desperation' in what way? We played without Tevez for seven months and we dominated this championship. So I don't think this. He is a City player and we want to recover him and maybe he can help us in the last six or seven games."

Mancini, whose past week has also taken in a short trip to the Medjugorje Church in Bosnia, said he had apologised to the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, for failing to shake hands last Saturday.

After outlining this turbulent week, he took his leave. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Ferguson's players were beginning a golfing mini-break, split between Gleneagles and St Andrews. It feels like they are in the calmer place.

Belfast Telegraph


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