Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini ignored the elephant in the room on Friday as he avoided questions on suspended Carlos Tevez and denied this had been a difficult week.
While Alex Ferguson praised his rival for his “strength of character” in dealing with Tevez, who Mancini has said refused to come on in Tuesday’s 2-0 Champions League defeat at Bayern Munich, the subject was off limits at a City news conference.
The club took the unusual step of reading out a statement beforehand to say that any questions relating directly or indirectly to Tevez would spell the end of proceedings.
“This decision has been made to protect the interests of all parties and safeguard the integrity of the investigation that is currently taking place,” the statement read by chief communications officer Vicky Kloss said.
Mancini, who entered the room joking “Champions League final?” as he clocked the larger than usual press contingent, was happy to discuss the wonderful weather, his bike ride to work and Saturday’s Premier League trip to Blackburn Rovers.
The Italian’s only real reference to a week where he has vowed that Tevez is “finished” at the club while he is in charge, was to deny that this had been the hardest week of his managerial career.
“No, no, absolutely no. Why is it difficult? Some situations can happen in football, in your job,” he said. “It’s important that the past is finished.
“I don’t have any complications. The only complication that we had two days ago is that we lost against Bayern Munich, only this. We started very well, we can do a fantastic season, I don’t have this problem.
“It is normal that one player is not happy to leave the pitch in an important game or to stay on the bench, it’s a normal situation for every manager.”
Striker Edin Dzeko’s behaviour in the midweek game also angered Mancini as the Bosnian threw off his shirt after being taken off. He has apologized for his actions and Mancini sought to draw a line under that and the rest of the week’s events.
“It is finished,” the Italian said. “I am the manager, our focus is regarding the Premier League, the Champions League and the FA Cup. Other things -- it is not my problem.”
City have banned Tevez, who has denied refusing to play, for up to two weeks pending an investigation into his conduct which has triggered widespread condemnation.
While there was silence at City, there were plenty of Premier League managers making their views on Tevez known.
“The sooner he leaves the country the better,” said Queens Park Rangers boss Neil Warnock, who was manager of Sheffield United when they sued Tevez’s ex-club West Ham United for the cost of relegation as the London side had broken rules on third-party agreements when signing the Argentine.
Manchester United boss Ferguson complimented Mancini on his handling of the matter.
“I think that Roberto Mancini has come out and shown his strength of character, his strength of management and I think that is important,” Tevez’s ex-manager told a news conference.
“Strong management is important and there is nobody more important than the manager at a football club.”
Not everyone has criticized Tevez with former United teammate Paul Scholes pointing out that he too had once refused to play in a League Cup tie in 2001.
“You think you should be playing and my head was all over the place,” he told BBC Radio 5 Live. “I realize it was stupid. I let the manager down and it was something I regretted. It’s probably similar to Carlos Tevez’s state of mind if it is true he refused to come on.”
Ferguson said Scholes was remembering the incident differently and that his “wasn’t exactly a refusal to play”.
City are unbeaten in the Premier League this season, having dropped just two points in six games, and are behind neighbours United on goal difference.