The tactical disaster in Amsterdam will have Man City's manager looking nervously over his shoulder, says Chris Charles.
As Roberto Mancini surveys the wreckage of another horror show in Europe, the spectre of Pep Guardiola is looming large on the horizon.
By his own admission, Manchester City need a miracle to qualify for the second phase of the Champions League, following a 3-1 defeat in Amsterdam on Wednesday night, and an early exit may cause more than a little discomfort in the owner’s trigger finger.
As in Madrid last month, City seemingly had a precious three points in the bag, only to wrestle defeat from the jaws of victory.
Mancini nobly took the blame for the latest loss, which leaves his side with one point from three games and realistically needing to win in Dortmund, while beating Real Madrid and Ajax back on home turf.
It is difficult to find a case for the defence, as the Italian inexplicably continues to meddle with his back four.
"You sense an element of panic coming into his decision-making which inevitably seeps onto the field of play."
After going a goal behind, he switched to switched to three centre-backs – a move which left Gael Clichy looking like a driver whose sat-nav had failed.
Micah Richards broke ranks to admit it was not a system the players were comfortable with.
Then there was Mancini’s desperate attempt to salvage something from the game by playing all four of his strikers in a move straight off the playground – all that was missing was rush goalie and jumpers for goalposts.
You sense an element of panic in his decision-making which inevitably seeps onto the field of play.
Yes, City are in this season’s 'Group of Death', but after twice getting themselves into winning positions in tricky away fixtures they have shot themselves in the foot, while a superhuman effort from Joe Hart barely papered over the cracks of a woeful display against Dortmund at the Etihad.
"While it would be ludicrous to part company with the manager now, a two-week spell in November could go a long way to shaping the Italian's future."
Conversely, in the Premier League the champions are repeating the pattern of that dramatic final day victory over QPR by giving inferior teams like Fulham and West Brom a goal start before coming back to nick it at the death.
City fans in the main are continuing to stand by Mancini, although a series of tweets from ‘Plekster’ during the Ajax game perfectly illustrated the fickle nature of the beautiful game: “Tonight could be one of the best in our history…City’s name is on the trophy…This could end up 10-0…Mancini out – sick of failure in Europe – embarrassing.”
While it would be ludicrous to part company with the manager now, a two-week spell in November - when his side face Tottenham, Real Madrid and Chelsea - could go a long way to shaping the Italian's future.
Meanwhile, four months after leaving Barcelona, Guardiola continues to kick his heels. The Spaniard has maintained all along that he wants to take a year out, but if Sheikh Mansour comes in with a ‘think of a number and double it’ offer he may just be tempted to fold the sun lounger away.
- Chris Charles is a QPR fan who used to write very funny blogs for the BBC. He likes punk music but dislikes celery. You can follow him on Twitter @Chris_Charles