Managing players the critical difference between Fergie and Mancini
As Manchester City's title bid choked at Arsenal, it was perhaps inevitable that the headlines should be made by one of their players - rather than one from the victorious Gunners.
Mario Balotelli's disgraceful lack of self-discipline ended in a last-minute red card and left City boss Roberto Mancini pondering whether to play him ever again and to ditch him in the summer.
Teammates Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany were seething as they left the pitch after defeat. Oh to be a fly on the wall in the City dressing room afterwards.
But the truth is Balotelli shouldn't have been on the park anyway: the boss should've subbed him at halftime. And therein lies the key difference between Mancini and his managerial title rival, Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
Fergie realises the overriding truth that players lose managers their jobs. Imagine Balotelli at United? Not once the Govanator had taken advice from one of the Italian's former bosses at Inter, Jose Mourinho. The Special One sold him to City.
Mancini has shown exceptional patience with both Balotelli and Carlos Tevez and his loyalty's not been rewarded. Fergie's demonstrated time and again that if he's crossed, it's curtains at Old Trafford.
Because the noxious cloud of Balotelli's show enveloped that other miscreant star of the Mancini regime who was also playing. Tevez was so key to City last season and but for six months of tabloid tantrums and AWOL's may well have pushed City over the title line at the expense of United this campaign.
City have splashed out millions on their squad but there's no substitute for experience, continuity and management. Brian Marwood, the conduit between players and the board, revealed the City strategy: win a first title, then invest in youth from there.
It's foundering and largely because Mancini hasn't been ruthless enough with the ill-disciplined elements of his squad.