Mancini happy to keep waving imaginary cards

Manchester: If Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini sees a sending-off offence in Sunday`s Premier League game with Tottenham Hotspur he is again likely to wave the imaginary red card that has sparked debate.

The Italian`s touchline gesticulation, which most recently came in Monday`s 1-0 win at Wigan Athletic, has been criticised by other managers but Mancini showed no sign of changing his ways when asked about the controversial issue.

"For me it is natural to do this," he told a news conference. "I did nothing ... I`m happy."

Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, who takes his third-placed side to the leaders for a title showdown, is among those to have expressed unease at the gestures.

"I don`t like it," said Redknapp, adding to Stoke City boss Tony Pulis`s verdict that it was "unacceptable" and Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Mick McCarthy`s belief it was "wrong."

Mancini brandished the imaginary card at the referee after Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa handled the ball near the halfway line when he was the last man, stopping Sergio Aguero running through on goal.

The incident came hot on the heels of Mancini accusing Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney of getting City captain Vincent Kompany sent off by making a similar gesture.

At the time the Italian said the Rooney case was different, explaining: "I am on the bench. It`s different from a player who is near the referee."

City are three points clear of champions United at the top of the table with 51 points from 21 games while Spurs are five points behind Sunday`s opponents.

Mancini said he would have striker Mario Balotelli and defender Micah Richards available after injury for a game where defeat for Spurs would "maybe" end the London club`s title chances.

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City hammered Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane in August but since then Redknapp`s men have lost only once in the league, winning many admirers with their attractive brand of soccer.

Mancini is a fan of their style but fell short of United manager Alex Ferguson`s assessment last month that Spurs were the best team to watch.

"They play the best football probably - after us," the Italian said. "For me the best football (is played by) Swansea, they play very well."

Mancini added the August thumping would have no bearing on Sunday`s match because meeting as title rivals was different to playing at the start of a season when results can be strange.

"It`s better to lose one time 5-1 than five times 1-0," he said.

Spurs have been helped by striker Emmanuel Adebayor, on loan from City and ineligible to play against his parent club this weekend, and Mancini has been pleased to see the player doing so well even if it has assisted a rival team.

He added City could probably have done with Adebayor at times, with the Carlos Tevez saga having left them a striker down for several months, but it was hard to incorporate into a rotation system someone who wanted to play all the time.

Mancini was still hoping the Tevez matter would be resolved soon with the Argentine having no future at City after refusing to warm up in a Champions League match in September.

"This (Tevez staying) is impossible ... Carlos doesn`t want to stay. We had a problem and I think for him it`s important he starts to play because he is a football player. It`s now three months he hasn`t played," said the Italian.

"I hope this finishes very quickly. I think he is talking with Paris St Germain, Inter Milan (about a move)."

Bureau Report