ROBERTO Mancini's future as Manchester City manager rests on the manner of his team's response to recent setbacks over the final weeks of the season.
While the Italian retains the support of the club's Abu Dhabi hier-archy, with chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak designated to make the final decision on his future, the combination of City's recent loss of form and Mancini's fractious relationship with senior players ensures that his position at the Etihad Stadium is no longer as secure as it appeared.
Growing resentment inside the dressing-room over Mancini's perceived indulgence of controversial forward Mario Balotelli is no secret at senior levels within the club and public displays of frustration in recent games by James Milner and Gareth Barry, while being substituted by the manager, have exposed the divisions within the City camp.
Chairman Al-Mubarak and the club's powerbrokers have long accepted that Mancini's abrasive style of management does not endear him to some members of his squad and, with City enjoying five months at the top of the Premier League until last month, it was regarded as a contributory factor to the team's improvement.
Yet the issue of Balotelli remains unresolved. The 21-year-old clashedwith team-mates on the pitch during Saturday's 3-3 draw with Sunderland before being involved in a dressing-room spat with Yaya Toure.
Despite the concerns over the disharmony within the squad, however, no decision has yet been made to part company with Mancini.
Reports in Spain last week that a deal had been agreed with Jose Mourinho to replace Mancini were forcefully denied by the Real Madrid manager.
But with Mancini's £3.5m-a-year contract due to expire at the end of next season and no negotiations yet under way to extend it, the remaining games of this season are likely to be decisive over what happens next.