Video: Mancini fumes over 'stupid' Aguero injury
Published 31/03/2012 | 05:00
Perhaps it is because he doesn't know how long the pay cheques will last that Roberto Mancini calls in at his local newsagent every 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 "stupid injury".
It's understood that the 23-year-old's skin suffered a severe reaction to a chemical spray which was applied to a foot injury following the 2-1 win against Chelsea. It 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.
City sources were unwilling to discuss the exact nature of Aguero's ailment and Mancini set hares running when he added: "I don't know what's happened with Sergio. It's better that we don't talk about this. Why? Because I prefer this -- I prefer I don't say nothing."
When pressed, he confirmed that the problem had occurred 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.
The City manager 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 can't 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 against Sunderland 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."
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.
So what was he doing in Milan when he should have been resting?
"He was there, like a journalist, at the press conference," said Mancini, who had a heated exchange with Balotelli when he returned to training at Carrington.
"It's better you ask him why he was there. He had two days off, but I can't take him and put him in his house for two days.
"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 area.
"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."
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.
With the only other striker physically capable of starting against Martin O'Neill's side, Edin Dzeko, looking less than confident, Mancini's reconciliation with Carlos Tevez is looking more significant by the day.
However, 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 Patrick 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 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."
Mind games might count for little, but as City enter the final straight, Mancini insists experience can be key -- and United are not the only ones who possess that advantage.
"In Italy, I won one title with Inter in the last game -- we won in Parma, Rome did not win in Catania," Mancini recalled.
"The only difference between United and us is that United have won the championship 19 times -- they are used to this every year.
"For us, it is different because it's the first time and probably we have more pressure than them, but it's not big pressure."
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. And, with that, he took his leave.
Meanwhile, in Scotland Ferguson's players were beginning a golfing mini-break, split between rounds at Gleneagles and St Andrews.
It feels like it is they who are in the calmer place. (© Independent News Service)