Joe Hart has given another indication of the uneasy relationship between Roberto Mancini and the Manchester City players by admitting his manager's criticism makes him feel Mancini does not believe he is "up to it" on occasions.
At differing times during a fraught season in which City's Champions League challenge and title defence have faltered, Mancini has made negative comments about his goalkeeper's performances, as he has about other City players. "You have got to be able to move on," Hart said. "Everyone is going to have their opinion, you have to take it as best you can, for what you are trying to achieve and move on from there. He is free to do his press conferences as he feels and if he feels you are not up to it ..."
When City lost to Real Madrid in a Champions League group game last September having conceded two late goals, Hart stated the team "threw it away". Mancini's response was sharp: "Joe Hart should stay in goal and make saves. If anyone should criticise the team it should be me, not Joe Hart. I am the judge, not Joe Hart."
Another Hart error came when he was beaten at the near post by Adam Johnson as City lost 1-0 at Sunderland on Boxing Day. After City's 3-1 defeat at Southampton in February, when Hart was at fault for the second goal, Mancini said: "It's not strange because he did two or three mistakes this year and this is not good for us. Joe is a good keeper but a goalkeeper can't do a mistake like this." Later that month, Mancini told the Guardian: "If Joe continues to make mistakes, he goes on the bench."
When it was put to Hart that Sir Alex Ferguson never publicly criticises his players, he said: "All managers have their different way of doing things."
Mancini has not reserved his criticism only for Hart. In the same interview, Mancini said of Samir Nasri: "A player of this quality could be one of the best players in Europe. But it's not happening." After Ajax beat City in the Champions League and Micah Richards dismissed the system of three centre-backs Mancini switched to during the 3-1 defeat, the manager said of him: "If you are a top player it is not important what system you use."
In a season during which City finished bottom of their Champions League group and are now 15 points behind Manchester United in the Premier League, Mancini has made other questionable decisions. He demoted Joleon Lescott to fourth-choice central defender despite him being a regular in last year's FA Cup and title-winning sides, and continually dropped then reinstated the forwards Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez.
Hart does admit it has been a challenging season for him. "I've enjoyed it. It's been tough, things haven't always gone my way. I'm enjoying the fight and getting back in there," he said. "Sometimes you take knocks, that's football, you take opinions, but you've got to be strong. I'm my strongest critic but I would never bury myself."
A view has formed that Hart requires competition of a quality higher than his current deputy at City, Costel Pantilimon. Ahead of the World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro, Hart has been joined by Ben Foster in the England squad, after he was persuaded from international retirement by Roy Hodgson, his former club manager.
Yet Hart deny he needs pushing. "I don't need reinvigorating. I train hard, I work hard, I want to play well, I try and play well no matter who is doing what. I'm sure that's the way Ben thinks and all top players think."
Regarding City appearing to all but have lost the championship to United, Hart said: "I'd love to know [why]. We have done well. But we have been up against a killing machine that have kept turning out results no matter."
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