Mancini on brink as owners lose faith
Roberto Mancini was facing the sack as Manchester City manager and the Italian could lose his job before tomorrow's Premier League trip to Reading.
Manuel Pellegrini, the Malaga coach, is expected to be appointed as Mancini's successor once the La Liga season is concluded on June 1. City accelerated efforts to recruit the Chilean last week as a result of Barcelona's growing interest in the former Villarreal manager.
However, despite claims that first-team coach Brian Kidd had been asked to take charge of City's final two games, it is understood that Mancini and his staff were in London, preparing for training at Loftus Road this morning prior to tomorrow's trip to the Madejski Stadium.
Having witnessed a humiliation in the FA Cup final against relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic at Wembley on Saturday, it is understood that the club's Abu Dhabi hierarchy have now lost confidence in Mancini's ability to take the team forward.
A board meeting at the club's hotel on Saturday morning ended with no show of support for the former Inter Milan coach and, tellingly, no mandate for City's communications department to quash speculation originating in Spain that a deal had been already agreed with Pellegrini.
While Mancini's departure has yet to be confirmed, it is understood that his contract will be terminated before City depart for a post-season trip to the United States next Monday and that the home game against Norwich City on May 19 will be his last – unless the club act before the Reading clash.
Mancini's position had been in doubt for weeks following his failure to meet his two pre-season targets of winning the Premier League and progressing from the Champions League group stage.
But his prospects appeared to nosedive two weeks ago when it emerged that City's sporting director, Txiki Begiristain, had met Pellegrini's agent, Jesus Martinez, in Madrid.
Mancini admitted he had no idea about the reasons for the meeting and conceded that City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak had given no assurances over his future.
After the Wembley defeat, Mancini's anger at being kept in the dark over his future was borne out with critical comments about the board's handling of the speculation over his job. "I don't know why the club hasn't stopped this because it is not correct and I don't think it is true," Mancini said.
"It is rubbish this speculation. I will still be here next season. It is rubbish, but I know football and know that everything can happen. But if it is true, we will know in the next two weeks.
"If it isn't, this is stupid. If it is true, then I am stupid for not believing this. Maybe next Sunday, when the season is finished, we will know then."
Mancini's hopes of seeing out the remaining four years of his £7.5million-a-year contract are over, however, with the only issue now the timing of his dismissal.
Pablo Zabaleta, the Argentine defender who was sent off against Wigan at Wembley, hinted at the absence of support for Mancini within the dressing room by insisting that the manager's future now lay in the hands of the Abu Dhabi hierarchy and chief executive Ferran Soriano.
"It's not our decision," Zabaleta said. "As players, we need to be focused on what we do now and we will see what happens with Roberto in the future."
As in previous seasons, City had been planning to resolve Mancini's future with a post-season debriefing in Abu Dhabi.
Mancini's deteriorating relationship has also contributed to the club's belief that a change is required.
However, with doubts over Mancini's position intensifying following the Cup final, a swift resolution to the situation is anticipated this week, possibly today.
Mancini appeared in no mood to resign, though, when asked about his position.
"I don't need to talk about my future," Mancini said.
"I have a four-year contract. Every contract can be broken, but I don't think the board need to talk about me." (© Daily Telegraph, London)