Mario Balotelli may have played last Manchester City game – Mancini
Mario Balotelli holds his head in his hands after he fouls Bacary Sagna and is sent off for a second yellow card. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian
Balotelli was dismissed after receiving a second card yellow in stoppage time to incur a three-match suspension, having previously been sanctioned this season for a red card at Liverpool and a stamp on Tottenham Hotspur’s Scott Parker that prompted a retrospective ban. Yet City are resigned to losing the 21-year-old for at least three further matches after a lunge high into Alex Song’s shin apparently went unnoticed by the referee, Martin Atkinson.
The Football Association will await the referee’s report to see whether mention is made of that first-half incident – no foul was awarded – though, with six games still to play, Mancini will not call again upon a player who has increasingly become a liability. “Mario should have been sent off after 20 minutes,” said the City manager. “I’ve finished my words for him. I’ve finished. I love him as a guy, as a player. I know him. He’s not a bad guy and is a fantastic player. But, at this moment, I’m very sorry for him because he continues to lose his talent, his quality.
“I hope, for him, he can understand that he’s in a bad way for his future. And he can change his behaviour in the future. But I’m finished. We have six games left and he will not play. It’s not sure he’ll [be available] because he could get a three- or four-game ban. Now, I need to be sure that I have always 11 players on the pitch. With Mario, it’s always a big risk. Every time we risk one [man] being sent off, even if he can also score in the last minute.”
Mancini admitted that José Mourinho’s assessment of the striker as “unmanageable” may prove prophetic, with team-mates visibly frustrated as Balotelli’s second foul on Bacary Sagna prompted the late red. City were quick to distance themselves from suggestions that there had been a physical confrontation between players in the dressing room after the game, but when asked whether he would now seek to sell a player who has scored 17 times this season, Mancini said: “Probably.” He was reportedly more explicit on Italian television, saying: “We will sell him.”
“I am disappointed in him,” added Mancini. “He is young and he continues to make a lot of mistakes. I have punished him during the season – it’s totally false that I have different behaviour with Mario than the other players – and he still needs to change his behaviour if he wants to improve. I’ve seen players with huge talent finish in two or three years because they do not change. I hope, for him, he will.”
City’s title challenge effectively fizzled out in defeat in front of the chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, with Mancini’s side having now mustered only one win in six away games. Yet the Italian insisted he remains the man to bring the title back to the club. “When I arrived, City were eighth,” he said. “After six months, we were fighting for a Champions League place. Last year we were close to second and won the FA Cup and, today, we have 15 points more than this time last year.
“When you start a project it’s important you improve, and we have. But we need more experience and to change something. We’ve only worked here for two years. Now the title is more difficult, but we have 18 points to play for and a derby at home. United have had an incredible run in the last two months. But, in football, it can change. Ten days ago we were one point behind. Today it’s eight points. United have more experience than us, so probably it’s difficult, but until it’s impossible, we keep going.”
Arsène Wenger, whose side have returned to third place, conceded that Manchester United are now likely to retain their title. “In France we say that when a horse smells its stable it’s difficult to stop him,” said the Arsenal manager. “It’s not completely over but, eight points behind with six games to go, they can smell that stable.”
|posted on||April 8, 2012|
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