Roberto Mancini's position as Manchester City manager will be reviewed at the end of this season, even if the club win the FA Cup.
aving failed to accomplish the two targets set for him by City's Abu Dhabi hierarchy last summer – progression to the Champions League knockout stages and retention of the Premier League title – Mancini could be preparing for his final Manchester derby as City manager ahead of the trip to Old Trafford tonight to face runaway leaders Manchester United.
Associates of Mancini in Italy have claimed privately that the former Inter Milan coach's prospects at City were as good as ended with the club's elimination from the Champions League in December, albeit in a group containing Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
Mancini, who signed a five-year contract worth £7.5m a year to remain as City manager last summer, has repeated his insistence that the club's failure to strengthen the squad to his requirements has denied him the chance to meet his goals.
"Yes, 100pc," Mancini said when asked whether missing out on top targets had harmed City's season. "Probably we would be on the top, we could win our second title, and probably also in the Champions League quarter-finals."
With chief executive Ferran Soriano and sporting director Txiki Begiristain – both appointed this season – already drawing up plans for the club's immediate and long-term future, Mancini is not guaranteed to figure in their blueprint beyond the end of this season, however.
Although there have been links with the likes of Malaga coach Manuel Pellegrini and Ajax's Frank de Boer, senior figures have played down the speculation, with reports in South America claiming that the Chilean Pellegrini had been verbally offered Mancini's job strongly denied by City.
Mancini's abrasive management style has caused continuing tensions within the team dressing-room.
The growing hostility towards Mancini from some players is barely disguised and there are concerns that his approach is no longer having the desired effect.
Mancini could still deliver silverware to the club over the final weeks of the season but even the club's second FA Cup in three seasons would not be enough to safeguard his position, with AS Roma ready to step in if he becomes available this summer.
Mancini, meanwhile, has risked accusations of sour grapes over City's inability to challenge United for the title by claiming Alex Ferguson's team have benefited from opponents being "soft" and a full of "fear".
"Because of this importance as a club, every team that plays against United think 'this game is difficult'", he said. "It's not true. If you play strong against United, you can beat them; like they can beat us.
"We are champions, but we are young as a team, we don't have the same importance at this moment. Maybe in 10 years we will be the same. History is very important." (© Daily Telegraph, London)