Roberto Mancini issued a public apology after admitting he had made "a mistake" by brandishing an imaginary red card during the 3-0 defeat of Liverpool that put Manchester City three points clear at the top of the Premier League table.
Incensed by the referee Mike Jones's decision to send off Gareth Barry, Mancini could be seen campaigning for Martin Skrtel also to be dismissed when the Liverpool defender gave away the penalty from which James Milner scored City's third goal.
It was not the first time Mancini has plucked an imaginary card from his pocket during his two years at City and, having promised that he would not do it again, he admitted he had been in the wrong.
"In the moment maybe I did that because I was not happy with the referee but I made a mistake," he said. "I was nervous, I didn't agree with the referee for Gareth's second yellow card and I did not understand why the penalty did not also have a card. I still do not understand but maybe I made a mistake."
Mancini could otherwise reflect on a satisfying night in which his team rediscovered their scoring form on the back of their 1-0 defeat to Sunderland and the goalless draw at West Bromwich Albion.
"It was a great response in a difficult game because Liverpool are a fantastic team and they also had the advantage of having played four days ago when we had played two days ago," he said.
"The result against Sunderland was crazy because we deserved to win that game 3-0 but I am pleased that we responded so well. We played very well and we showed spirit. In the second half we had some problems but we came through it and found a solution."
Mancini identified Yaya Touré for special acclaim and could not hide his disappointment that the Ivory Coast international, along with his brother Kolo, will leave for the Africa Cup of Nations after Sunday's FA Cup third-round tie against Manchester United. "I will try to find another Yaya in the squad but the truth is there isn't one," he said.
"He is very important to the team, to the way we play, and he is a big influence on the side, so we will miss him. If we can still be top by the end of January I think we have a good chance of winning the title because, without Yaya and Kolo, it will be very difficult."
Kenny Dalglish, the Liverpool manager, suggested there may have been something wrong with the ball when Pepe Reina allowed Sergio Agüero's shot to squeeze beneath his body. "I noticed they changed the ball right after, so maybe that had something to do with it."
He admitted his team had deserved to lose on another disappointing night for Andy Carroll, his £35m striker. "If you want to be a successful team, you have to be clinical. We've got to get that into our make-up. Tonight we never had that. It's a lesson learned. We have to take it on the chin and make sure we don't repeat it."