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Mancini knows he's heading for the bacon slicer

THERE has never been a better metaphor for the leg-jellying anxiety suffered by a failing football manager than Mick McCarthy's bacon slicer.

Coined by McCarthy during Japan/Korea 2002, it summed up beautifully the knife-edge existence of the modern manager and came from a man on the ragged edge after two weeks of sustained and intense pressure.

They cut their rashers thinner in Italy and in the last few days the old slicer has delivered fresh Carpaccio Di Matteo. After Manchester City's elimination from the Champions League, a course of thinly sliced Mancini is also on the menu.

McCarthy's description seems almost quaint when trying to get to grips with someone like Roman Abramovich.

He has never felt the need to ratchet up the pressure in fine increments and favours a meat cleaver when he has butchering to do.

Popping up like a bath toy is Rafa Benitez, who has been scratching around for something to do for a while and obviously has no qualms about sticking his head on a stick for Abramovich to take pot shots at when he feels like it.

Benitez is either very brave, very stupid or could do with a handy king's ransom like the rest of us.

He's taking a punt but it's a safe one. If Abramovich has his way, Benitez will sit in until the summer and step gracefully aside with enough money to buy a small jet or into a lucrative sinecure somewhere in the billionaire's vast empire.

Alternatively, he has a free pass to do what he can with Chelsea's season.

If he manages to make a decent fist of it, he will be perfectly placed to take full advantage if Pep Guardiola cannot be persuaded to take the job.

Benitez is hardly sexy in the way Abramovich likes his managers and cannot be seen as anything else than a safe pair of hands to make sure Chelsea finish in the top four.

But people thought that about Avram Grant and he ended up in a Champions League final.

Sitting like a Buddha in a luxury Central Park condo, Guardiola is the man they all want and for the moment, the master of the universe.

It must be a fine feeling and he should enjoy it. Every club with aspirations will want him to be their manager and every two-bit billionaire must have made him an offer by now.

He's evidently a smart man and given the ocean which must exist in physical and philosophical terms between himself and Roman Abramovich, it's a wonder he is even considering the idea of moving to London to take over at Chelsea or Manchester City either for that matter.

Perfect

In this snapshot of time and until he takes another job, he is the perfect coach; a winner all the way and with no current results to besmirch his reputation.

But the second he takes control of another group of human beings he is vulnerable to the whims of men like Abramovich and the driving imperative of points.

Di Matteo and Mancini should be his reference points. Abramovich has just sacked a Champions League and FA Cup-winning manager and Manchester City are getting ready to do the same to a Premier League winner.

Mancini was as grey as a heron after drawing with Real Madrid and you could see it in his eyes.

He doesn't believe he has a future in Manchester and he's just waiting for the payoff now.


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