Roberto Mancini made a swift exit from east London on Saturday evening, so he could travel to Ancona and see his ailing father, Aldo. As he landed in his hometown, the Italian would have known of Carlos Tevez's transfer request. The fallout will be unavoidable and perhaps defining for the Manchester City manager upon his return to England tomorrow. He must wonder when the internal strife will ever end.
There have been punch-ups on the training ground and arguments in the dressing room for Mancini to deal with since he arrived at Eastlands 12 months ago but none of that compares to the desire of his captain to leave because of supposed home sickness. City have rejected Tevez's request but they undeniably face a struggle to keep hold of the 26-year-old Argentinian, who has scored 33 goals in 50 league game since arriving from Manchester United in July 2009.
It is in this context that comments made by Brian Kidd, Mancini's assistant, following City's victory here were significant. "There are definitely comparisons between the boss and Sir Alex [Ferguson]," said Kidd, who worked alongside the United manager as he established a golden era at Old Trafford. "He [Mancini] is a winner and has a great will to win. He was disappointed we lost a goal [against West Ham], because he is never satisfied, which is great to see. I have been there with Sir Alex."
City supporters may squirm at the thought of Mancini being the new Ferguson but if that is the case then now is the time for him to do his best impression of the Scot. After all, total discipline is required of a team who even in the process of gaining the win that put them joint-top of the Premier League were characterised by the angst of Mario Balotelli, who replaced the suspended Tevez up front and spent most of his time throwing his arms in the air and punching goalposts in frustration. He was substituted by Mancini, the Italian aware that his compatriot had been booked for dissent and was in danger of being sent off for a second time in five appearances for the club.
Balotelli reacted by stomping down the tunnel, making it two matches in a row in which a City striker has shown his fury at being replaced. Tevez was the first, in the win against Bolton Wanderers last week, and it is he whom Mancini must deal with first.
Here in particular Ferguson's example is one Mancini would be advised to follow. The United manager drew admiration for the way in which he reacted to his own principal striker, Wayne Rooney, asking for a transfer in October and then persuaded the 25-year-old to stay, albeit with the help of a pay rise. It will, then, be interesting to see if Mancini uses his press conference before Thursday's Europa League tie against Juventus to "do a Fergie" and paint City as the victim of a disloyal, ungrateful player.
It will frustrate the 46-year-old that Tevez is overshadowing City's progress on the pitch. They are undefeated in the league since 30 October, with this victory among their most emphatic. West Ham simply could not cope with their aggression in midfield and fluidity in attack, where Yaya Touré and David Silva excelled.
Touré's placing behind a lone striker remains a curious one but he showed great attacking instinct here, giving the visitors the lead with a rasping drive before rampaging into the penalty area on 73 minutes and hitting a shot that deflected off Robert Green to make it 2-0. Adam Johnson, who came on for Balotelli, made it 3-0 after collecting a sumptuous pass from Silva.
While the other title contenders face each other over Christmas and the new year, City have a string of fixtures which appear more than winnable. Little wonder that the squad see the period as a crucial one. "There are massive games coming and we have a big chance to get close [to the top]," said Kolo Touré. "We want to focus really well at this time."
Focus is also needed at West Ham. Their only solace here was James Tomkins' late consolation goal. They remain bottom of the league and short of confidence and quality. Their manager, Avram Grant, believes both can be rectified with investment during the January transfer window and he has even provided the club's owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, with a sum that could save the club from relegation.
"With £10m I can do a lot," said Grant. "We need additional players, dangerous players – there are a lot of decisions to make. If the owners gave me £10m that would be great."
Given their resources, City may well also spend next month, but those associated with the club will hope it is not done according to the need to replace their most influential player.