Man City hopes under threat as Mancini rift widens
Roberto Mancini is facing a widening rift with his Manchester City squad as senior players are growing increasingly disillusioned with the Italian manager.
Uncertainty over Mancini's tactics -- borne out by Micah Richards' critical comments about the defensive approach in the Champions League defeat against Ajax -- and the former Inter Milan coach's repeated claims that his expensively assembled squad are not good enough to win Europe's premier competition, have created a sense of exasperation among City's players.
Senior figures in the dressing-room have also grown tired of what they perceive to be Mancini's heavy-handed treatment of the likes of Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott.
Mancini publicly criticised the England goalkeeper for his blunt assessment of a defeat against Real Madrid, while Lescott was relegated to the status of fringe player after taking a central role in the club's Premier League title success last season.
Although City's defeat against Ajax has left Mancini admitting it will take a "miracle" for the team to qualify for the knockout stages, his future as manager is not under threat, with the club's Abu Dhabi hierarchy in no rush to part with the man whose reward for winning the title was a lucrative five-year contract this summer.
City officials have also played down speculation linking former Barcelona sporting director Txiki Begiristain to a similar role at the Etihad, but sources in Spain believe City's chief executive Ferran Soriano is keen to recruit the man credited with orchestrating Barca's success under Pep Guardiola.
The eroding of the respect between leading players and Mancini, who has never been close to his squad, has done little to raise hopes of a revival over the final three games of Group D -- all of which City must win to have any chance of reaching the second stage.
Richards' remarks about the confusion generated by Mancini's decision to alter City's defensive formation against Ajax from a back four to three and back again highlighted the main source of irritation among the players.
Mancini's appointment of Italian defensive coach Angelo Gregucci has also added to the confusion.
Several key players are understood to be disgruntled with Mancini's approach. Some believe that the title was won last season in spite of Mancini, rather than because of him. (© Daily Telegraph, London)