Roberto Mancini’s Honeymoon over at Manchester City

The big shots at Manchester City were so clever, hiring Roberto Mancini as the club was about to embark on a cushy run of fixtures. Lo and behold, City swept past Stoke (tricky), Wolves, Middlesbrough and Blackburn. There’s no doubt Mark Hughes would have produced the same results, truth be told. [ad#as2]

But the feel-good Mancini story, aided by the Italian’s stylish dress sense, isn’t so feel good at the moment.

When the going got tough, City stumbled, losing to resurgent Everton, getting knocked out of the League Cup semifinals by archrivals Manchester United after blowing a first-leg lead, falling to lowly Hull City and producing a lethargic display against Liverpool on Sunday in a game with massive Champions League implications.

Worse still for Mancini, under pressure to add some silverware to City’s barren cabinet, Stoke, denied a league win over City on Feb. 16 courtesy of a horrible call, got revenge by eliminating the Blues 3-1 in extra time in an F.A. Cup replay Wednesday. So much for the dream Chelsea-Manchester City clash in the quarterfinals. There was also a requisite bust up with talented troublemaker Craig Bellamy, who was reportedly unhappy with having to train extra. Reports suggest Mancini’s training methods have left more than a few players unhappy.

Stoke fans chanted, “You’ll be sacked in the morning,” and given City’s owners crave instant success, they might not be far off. For those counting, Mancini has lost four games now, compared with Hughes’ two.

The turning point of Wednesday’s defeat came when striker Emmanuel Adebayor was dismissed, harshly, for flailing an arm at beanpole defender Ryan Shawcross. Ironically, Shawcross later got the winner.

“My opinion is that we played very well,” Mancini told reporters. “We dominated the game and had six or seven chances to score a goal before the sending off of Emmanuel. Football is strange. When you play well and have a lot of chances, if you don’t score something can change the game.”

Carlos Tevez is expected to take his place in the City squad this weekend after returning from his native Argentina, where his wife gave birth. His energy, passion and goal-scoring instincts will be much needed, especially given Adebayor is now gone for three games thanks to his straight red for violent conduct.

That’s the good news. The bad news is City travels to league leader Chelsea on Saturday, then hosts Tottenham in another huge encounter. Two losses aren’t out of the question. If City does lose both, Mancini surely won’t be around much longer. The scarf would be much missed.


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