Raging Mancini still prefers fight over flight
City boss insists he has 'no regrets' over training-ground bust-up with Balotelli
Roberto Mancini may have been embarrassed by the photographs of him grappling with Mario Balotelli but he says he has no regrets over the confrontation with his striker.
The Manchester City manager argued that the photographs that showed him grabbing Balotelli's training bib and then ordering him to the changing-rooms looked worse than they were.
However, he also admitted that Balotelli's challenge on Scott Sinclair would have been worth "two red cards" in a competitive match.
There is no indication that Balotelli has been fined for his act of aggression and given the fact that Mancini had to persuade him not to take the club to a tribunal the last time they tried to inflict a financial penalty on him, there is no great appetite to try it again.
Mancini viewed the incident as less serious than his persistent indiscipline on the pitch, for which Balotelli was fined, and for appearing outside a Liverpool strip club 48 hours before City were to play Bolton in March.
"No, I did nothing," said Mancini when asked if he regretted losing his temper so completely with the footballer he has mentored since he was a teenager.
"I wanted Mario to leave the pitch and he said: 'No, I don't want to.' I know it is unusual for a manager to do this but I am not regretful."
Balotelli has not played for City since a disastrous, almost uninterested performance in the Manchester derby almost a month ago. Since then his private life has appeared close to collapse.
His foster parents, Francesco and Silvia Balotelli, have written an open letter to his former girlfriend, Raffaela Fico, the mother of his one-month old daughter, Pia, to stop giving interviews to the Italian press in which she invariably criticises Balotelli's fitness to be a parent.
Meanwhile, Balotelli's camouflaged Bentley has been seen in Wythenshawe, a working-class district of Manchester, where his birth mother, Rose Barwuah, has set up home.
Mancini remarked that he did not know whether Balotelli was in a fit state of mind to play in this afternoon's FA Cup tie with Watford, which the manager had pencilled in for his comeback.
The manager is probably already regretting the interview he gave to the Italian sports daily, 'Gazzetta dello Sport', in which he claimed the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour, wanted to keep Balotelli because he brought so much publicity to the club. Yesterday, he certainly fulfilled that requirement.
There were so many television cameras crammed into the small press room at the club's Carrington training ground that Mancini asked with a smile whether City were holding a press conference for the Champions League final.
He said he expected the club's hierarchy to continue to support him over his stance on Balotelli, although given there would be virtually no clubs prepared to take him on and meet his salary, he can do little else than argue he will not be sold.
He received support from an unlikely ally in the shape of Alex Ferguson, who argued that City's inability to screen off their training pitches left them at something of a disadvantage.
Though United are based less than a mile away, the situation there could not be more different, as what public access there is affords no clear view of the training ground itself.
Ferguson views the security measures as absolutely essential.
"You are protecting the possibility of success," Ferguson said. "Do ICI send an email to another bio-chemicals company telling them their new discoveries in drugs? Does any major company tell its opponents what they are doing? I am sure they don't.
"Unfortunately football has a media profile which means cameramen want to be at training sessions.
"I think that is ridiculous but it makes it very difficult for a coach to do their work because you don't know where the information can go.
"I think it stopped at Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho, but there are some places where the press are in every day. This is what they expect. I know it happens in Italy. I don't know how you can do your tactical work.
"Fortunately, at our place, we can guard against it to a decent degree," Ferguson added, before joking: "Sometimes we get a photographer wandering over in the woods – but we can put wolves in there!"
Keeping training-ground information within the confines of Carrington is a serious business for Ferguson, and in the past journalists have been banned from attending press conferences for publishing information Ferguson felt should have remained secret.
This season United have taken the step of remaining in England to train before flying to away Champions League ties to avoid taking training on opponents' grounds, which is supposed to be open for just 15 minutes but often can be seen in its entirety.
"No matter which stadium you go to, you can't do anything," Ferguson continued. "Training at our own ground we can do something. We can pick a team for a start, work on tactical formations and set-pieces.
"You can't do that when you are training at someone else's ground." (© Independent News Service)