The loss of the FA Cup final to Wigan Athletic signalled the disintegration of Roberto Mancini's Manchester City project. Khaldoon al-Mubarak, the chairman, and Ferran Soriano, the chief executive, watched as the Italian walked from the sodden Wembley turf, beaten by a 90th-minute Ben Watson header, a figure exhausted from a long season of failure and a collision of factors that has led the executive to conclude that it needed to dismiss him.
For the Abu Dhabi-led hierarchy, the charge sheet against the Italian is long. There is the dismal title defence, finishing bottom of the Champions League group, the constant complaining about last summer's transfer buys, the inability to win anything despite a cash-soaked, starry squad, and the alienating of his own staff, made clear by last summer's criticism of Brian Marwood, then director of football, and of the club's communications executive, Vicky Kloss, during a post-final briefing at Wembley.
The most damning accusation, though, is the one viewed as the root cause of the above: Mancini's inability to man-manage. Manuel Pellegrini, by all accounts, is a people person, a players' manager, described as humble and possessing the X-factor required in an age of swaggering multimillionaire footballers: an ability to keep them onside and coax that telling extra scintilla of performance.
Mancini's divisive approach has left many nonplussed. Asked about the manager's future, Pablo Zabaleta, a player who has not drawn criticism from him, hardly offered a ringing endorsement. "It's not our decision. As players we need to be focused on what we do now and we will see what happens with Roberto in the future," the right-back said. "We have got two games left and we will see the chairman and sports director [Txiki Begiristain] and all the people who have to think about this, and if they make some changes – it's because … I don't know. We need to let them deal with this."
This has been a campaign of warfare between manager and players, starting when Cristiano Ronaldo's late goal handed City a 3-2 defeat in their opening Champions League match at Real Madrid, and Joe Hart became a favoured target.
Informed then to stop criticising the side – that was Mancini's job – the goalkeeper was the recipient of further dressing-downs. At differing points, he has been joined by Samir Nasri, Micah Richards and the captain, Vincent Kompany. The Mario Balotelli farrago that featured Mancini's odd support for the erratic Italian before it ended when they grappled during a training-ground spat in January cast the manager as undignified, and will not have played out well in Abu Dhabi.
Mubarak will also feel bemusement that the leader of the word's richest club, who is only a year into a lucrative a five-season contract, should turn on a high-ranking member of staff.
But this is what Mancini did when pressed about Soriano and Begiristain's pursuit of Pellegrini. "The people, Vicky, the other people who work for the press [office], I don't know why they don't stop this rubbish. You wrote this for the six months, and for the last two weeks. It's too much. I don't understand why. For football I talk and I take responsibility in the press. For this you need to talk to Vicky and the other people," he said.
"When you start to win trophies maybe you can think you are the best team. It is not true. You need to work harder and harder. After, also the people who worked with us around the team, they are not strong enough for this job. Also they should improve. I am strong because my back is very strong and I don't have any problems with this. But I think that together we should improve."
Mancini knows full well that those who are chasing Pellegrini are Soriano and Begiristain, not anyone in the communications department. Yet when pressed who he meant, Mancini said: "Other people. Vicky. People that work [in the club]."
Mancini appears to view his coaching staff – headed by David Platt and Brian Kidd – as a band apart from the rest. This is hardly conducive to the building of a strong cohesive club that can pull together. "I am very proud of my job in this year, very proud. What we did and my staff," he said of his inner circle.
The one not inconsiderable constituency still squarely behind Mancini are the fans. They sang his name at Wembley and as with Roberto Di Matteo at Chelsea, who will always be loved for the 2012 Champions League triumph, now that City are removing their manager, Mancini knows eternal adoration is his after the 2011 FA Cup win and last season's title, which was a first for 44 years and featured the rout of Manchester United on their own patch.
He said: "This is normal because I don't think there will be another manager who will win 6-1 at Old Trafford against [Sir Alex] Ferguson because Ferguson has retired. We won one Premier League, we won one FA Cup, we won a Community Shield. We lost this FA Cup unfortunately. We are very popular with the support. I love them, they love me, and I'm happy for this. If in the end I will leave I will be the first supporter of Manchester City in the future."
It sounded like a valedictory speech. And it turned out to be one.