Mancini in danger after Man City disaster against Ajax
Rumours of player unrest as City are exposed tactically in Europe once again
THE KNIVES appear to be out for Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini after his side slumped to another Champions League defeat and there were hints of player unrest over his tactics.
The Premier League champions now have just one point from their first three games in Europe after being beaten 3-1 by Ajax in Amsterdam. They are bottom of their group, and in danger of failing to reach the knock-out stages for a second successive season. Indeed, if they stay bottom they will not even qualify for the Europa League.
Afterwards Mancini admitted it would be a "miracle" if City qualified for the next round. Even if they win their final three games they will finish with ten points, and that was not enough to go through last season.
City took the lead against Ajax through Samir Nasri, but the goal was against the run of play. Siem de Jong equalised just before half time and things went badly wrong in the second period. First Niklas Moisander headed the Dutch team in front after some woeful marking, prompting a disastrous tactical change from Mancini, who introduced a 3-5-2 formation, only for Christian Eriksen to take advantage and score a third for Ajax.
Afterwards defender Micah Richards made it clear the players were more comfortable with four at the back and "hinted at mounting dissatisfaction within the squad over Roberto Mancini’s constant tactical tinkering," according to The Times.
"For a manager who laid such resolute defensive foundations at City last season, the inability of Mancini's team to translate that rigidity to the Champions League, this season and last, must be a concern," noted The Daily Telegraph.
This latest result was certainly a low point, said ESPN. "The loss could go down as perhaps Mancini's worst, especially given the amount of world-class players at his disposal."
And it could cost him dear, suggested the BBC. "City's Abu Dhabi owners are unlikely to look happily on such a return for their lavish investment, and the team's shortcomings have rarely been exposed as cruelly as they were in Amsterdam ArenA," it said.
"The City manager who is such a lion at home – at least in domestic competition – seems for ever doomed to be a pussycat on the wider stage of the European game," lamented James Lawton in The Independent. "On the touchline the despair on Mancini's face inevitably deepened. Young, fragile Ajax... made City look a parody of the champions of the richest football league in the world."
City's hapless performance was reminsicent of the days when they were a laughing stock, said Martin Samuels in the Daily Mail. "In a throwback to the wilderness years, City's ambitions were exposed so ruthlessly and thoroughly... that it was almost possible to hear the sniggers from the red half of Manchester filtering across the North Sea."