Ancelotti on brink as Holy Grail goes again

MANCHESTER - Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich refrained from joining the Old Trafford chants of "You're getting sacked in the morning" aimed at manager Carlo Ancelotti, but the Italian's future remains far from secure.

The Russian owner, who has plunged millions into the team in what Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says is an "obsession" with the Champions League, sat impassively as the latest attempt ended with a 3-1 aggregate loss to the Red Devils on Tuesday.

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Managers are a disposable entity in west London, cheap to get rid of even if they have time left on their contract when measured against the investment in players, and Abramovich has shown no hesitation in pushing the eject button in the past.

"It's not my decision whether I stay or go," Ancelotti told a news conference after a spirited showing by his team in a 2-1 quarter-final second leg defeat that sealed their fate.

"I haven't spoken to him (Abramovich)."

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With the defence of their Premier League title all but over as they trail leaders United by 11 points, European glory had been their last realistic chance of silverware.

Ancelotti had been given top-of-the-range tools for the job with January's record 50 million pound purchase of striker Fernando Torres but the Spaniard has yet to score and his lack of confidence was glaringly obvious against United.


Ferguson said Ancelotti had "had to play" Torres because of his price tag and even the Italian admitted he "maybe" made a mistake in starting him instead of goalscorer Didier Drogba, who replaced the Spaniard for the second half.

Rather than blame his tools, Abramovich has a track record in blaming his managers, which renders the one year remaining on Ancelotti's contract less important than he might think.

Avram Grant was sacked three days after the 2008 Champions League final, having taken the side to runners-up spots in three competitions that season, which is more than they will achieve this season.

Ancelotti's compatriot Claudio Ranieri was dismissed in 2004 despite leading the team to second in the league, their highest finish in almost half a century, and the semi-finals of the Champions League.

He was replaced by Jose Mourinho, who brought in two league titles, two League Cups and an FA Cup but even the self-proclaimed "Special One" did not capture a European Cup and he left in 2007 after falling out with Abramovich.

Ancelotti did take Chelsea to a domestic double last season but as Abramovich rested his chin on his hand while he watched events unfold at Old Trafford, the latest European failure was more likely to stick in his mind.