Victory over United the best cure for Mancini
Alex Ferguson was being only slightly mischievous when he responded dismissively to Roberto Mancini's appointment at Manchester City last December.
Informed that, by replacing the sacked Mark Hughes, Mancini had become the 14th man to fill the manager's seat at City since his own arrival at Old Trafford in 1986, Ferguson replied, with a glint in his eye: "14th? Is that all? I can't wait for the 20th."
Ferguson will celebrate the 24th anniversary of his appointment as Manchester United manager when Wolves visit Old Trafford today. In contrast, Mancini takes his City team to West Brom tomorrow on the 323rd day of his reign with doubts now surfacing as to whether he will last long enough to reach the one-year mark at Eastlands.
Hughes was sacked by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan 11 months ago, with Mancini waiting in the wings. Hughes had plotted a 4-3 victory against Sunderland, but his fate was already sealed.
In the words of City chief executive Garry Cook, Hughes paid the price for his "trajectory of recent results." That phrase alone suggests that Mancini, whose recent trajectory is a line of three successive defeats, can begin to check out flight schedules to Milan.
Yet before the City crisis bandwagon begins to roll down the hill, it is important to note the differences between the final days of Hughes and Mancini's current difficulties.
Clearly, another defeat at the Hawthorns tomorrow -- a venue where City have lost on five of their last six visits -- coupled with a loss at home to United on Wednesday will leave Mancini vulnerable.
Disgruntled players, impatient owners, sceptical supporters and bad results are a lethal combination, but Mancini's advantage over Hughes is that he is working with Sheikh Mansour's mandate and, crucially, is viewed within Eastlands as implementing the blueprint drawn up by the likes of Cook, chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak and Brian Marwood.
They want a more professional approach and a change of mentality in the dressing room and, to date, Mancini is ticking those boxes for his bosses.
Mancini has admitted to friends in Italy that he has been surprised and shocked by the negativity and scrutiny he is under.
From day one, he has had to overcome hostility within the dressing room and from outside the club merely because he replaced Hughes, a hugely respected figure.
That has led to Mancini claiming that he has been victimised by a 'nationalistic' media opposed to an Italian managing City.
Three points against United next week will banish the gathering clouds, but as Ferguson pointed out when discussing Mancini's appointment last December, nothing is certain.(© Daily Telegraph, London)