Roberto Mancini appeared to raise questions about Mario Balotelli’s Manchester City future after the striker’s disappointing performance in the 3-2 derby defeat by United.
Balotelli was a surprise inclusion alongside Sergio Aguero for Mancini, who started with Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko on the bench at the Etihad Stadium.
It was just an eighth start of the season for the Italy forward, who has let his manager down time and again and has been linked with a return to his homeland with Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus all interested in signing him in January.
City trailed to two goals from Wayne Rooney at half-time and although Mancini had hoped to bring on a third striker shortly after the restart, he decided to replace Balotelli with Carlos Tevez six minutes after the interval when the Italian was unable to improve on his grim first-half display.
Balotelli responded by walking straight down the tunnel and despite Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta drawing City level, Robin van Persie snatched an injury-time winner for United.
Mancini defended his reasoning for selecting Balotelli in the first place, claiming he expected the striker to cause United’s defenders “serious difficulties” but fears his fellow countryman may squander his talent.
He said: “I love Mario as a guy and as a player but I think that it’s important for him to start to think about his job if he wants to play well. He can’t continue to play like today, we want more from him because he has everything, top quality.
“When you have a player with the quality that Mario has you can’t understand why he continues to throw his quality out of the window. This is incredible.
“I’ve seen players in my life with fantastic quality and in the end they didn’t do it and I don’t want Mario to finish like these players because it’s not good for him, but we didn’t lose because Mario played badly.”
Although City are now six points behind leaders United, Mancini maintains his team have showed they can retain their title.
He added: “Even though we lost this game we showed that we can win the title again this year.
“I think that we have a good spirit to recover this six points. Now we need four or five wins in-a-row but we have the spirit for this.”
United manager Alex Ferguson insists it is too soon to suggest that his team have made up for the misery they suffered at City’s hands last season.
Ferguson’s side lost the league on goal difference in the dying seconds of the season but the United manager feels that City’s lack of European football will help them.
Asked if the win helped make up for last season, Ferguson warned: “Not at the moment, there is a long way to go. City will be fresh in the second half of the season, we know that. They are out of European football.
“We have to contend with European football, the FA Cup and the league. It’s a challenge but we’ve always accepted challenges.
“When you count the points up at the end of the season I hope it’s significant.
“Derby games are significant if you win them, there is no question about that, but I hope it’s really significant by the end of the season.”
Wayne Rooney felt the win provided some measure of revenge and said: “It feels fantastic. It’s a great day for us, to go six points clear and beat our closest rivals.
“With what happened last season, we’ve waited a long time for this to happen and I’m sure it means everything to everyone at the club and all the fans.”
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