Roberto Mancini reignited his war of words with Wayne Rooney by refusing to apologise for waving an imaginary card in a bid to have Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa dismissed for a deliberate handball during Manchester City’s 1-0 victory at the DW Stadium.
Manchester United striker Rooney, accused by Mancini of influencing referee Chris Foy’s decision to send off Vincent Kompany during Manchester City's FA Cup third round defeat against the neighbours earlier this month, tweeted 'Was manchini asking for red card????’ after television cameras highlighted the City manager’s histrionics following the 88th minute incident.
Referee Martin Atkinson chose to issue a yellow card for the offence, which occurred in the City half, prompting Mancini’s anger.
But with the Italian apologising for attempting to have Martin Skrtel sent off during a 3-0 Premier League win against Liverpool recently, prior to criticising Lee Mason’s failure to send off Glen Johnson for a two-footed challenge on Joleon Lescott last week — which resulted in a post-match row with Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard – Mancini refused to back down when asked to explain his latest display of card-waving.
“I did it because Wayne Rooney did this.” Mancini said. “It is normal with a chance like that [Figueroa handball] to do it.
“I am on the bench. When you are near to the referee you can have more of an influence. I am on the bench and the referee cannot see me. But I don’t want to talk about the referee and that situation.”
While steering clear of condemning Mancini’s actions, Wigan’s Spanish manager Roberto Martinez insisted that his City counterpart has yet to grasp the cultural differences of managing in England compared to the continent.
Martinez said: “I’ve been here long enough to understand that trying to influence the referee is not accepted in the British game.
“When a player tries to simulate or buy a decision from the referee that is regarded as cheating. I understand that in Italy, France and Spain it is acceptable to try and get a decision from the referee, but it is different here.”
Away from the controversy of Mancini’s card-waving, City moved three points clear of United at the top of table following Edin Dzeko’s first-half goal.
The victory ensures that City can open a six-point gap if they defeat Tottenham at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday ahead of United’s clash with Arsenal at the Emirates later the same day.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart insisted that putting daylight between themselves and United is not a motivating factor.
“We are just focusing on ourselves.” Hart said. “We have a massive game against Spurs and we are relishing that. We are all pulling in the same direction.
“It was really important to win. We knew it was difficult because we knew Wigan have been playing well this month. Roberto Martinez is a fantastic manager and that’s why it was really important to beat them.
“At this moment we have a lot of players injured. We will possibly have Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli back on Sunday, but we have big problems with injuries and for this reason it was important to get the right result rather than play well.
“There is a big game on Sunday against Spurs. They are having a fantastic season and it will be a fantastic match.”
Martinez admitted that, having ended their recent run of poor form, City are now favourites to win the league. He said: “There are obvious favourites now because they have a great squad with a lot of quality.”