MANCHESTER - Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini will face a big reminder of the limited patience of club owners when he visits his predecessor Mark Hughes at Fulham on Sunday.
City have exactly the same points - 22 from 13 Premier League games - as they did under Hughes year ago. One month later he lost his job in humiliating fashion.
Mancini, named as Hughes' replacement in the same breath as the Welshman's sacking just hours after a 4-3 victory over Sunderland on December 19, refused on Friday to read too much into the similarities and said the team were much better now.
"We have improved a lot our team. We won a lot of games away," the Italian told a news conference at the club's Carrington training ground. "We are in fourth position, two points behind United. We must check at the end of the season ... we will get (into) the Champions League, we will probably win something."
Mancini was adamant there would be no comparisons between managers and that Hughes would not be looking to prove a point.
"Sunday will be Fulham (against) City not Hughes against Mancini," he said.
While a trip to Fulham could give Mancini the opportunity the chance to swap notes with Hughes on life at the world's richest club, it may not provide much chance of silencing fan concerns over what they see as boring displays.
Like Fulham, City have not scored in their last two games.
Mancini said he was frustrated by the lack of goals but was not worried because at least they were creating chances, which are coming mainly from the tireless running of Carlos Tevez.
"We had 17 chances to score in the second half (in last week's 0-0 draw at home to Birmingham City)," he said.
"It is important we have the chance to score. The problem would be if we didn't have a chance to score."
The player Mancini thinks is the key to opening the scoring floodgates is compatriot Mario Balotelli but he will be missing while he serves the last game of a three-match ban.
Having missed much of the season through injury, he made his presence felt with two goals and a red card against West Bromwich Albion earlier this month, leading to some words of advice from his manager.
"He must change his mentality, he must think to play," said Mancini. "If Mario plays he can score in every game. If Mario doesn't talk with the referee, thinks only of his job, he can make a difference on the pitch."
He laughed off pictures that appeared in British newspapers this week of Balotelli having dinner with AC Milan vice president Adriano Galliani and speculation he could leave the club despite having signed a five-year deal in the close season.
"Mario must start to play before he leaves," he said with a laugh. "He has played only two games. It's a good experience for him, he's young."