They say a title-winning team starts at the back, but Manuel Pellegrini’s treatment of ‘keeper Joe Hart has shown Manchester City’s potential rivals for the top spot that they have very little to worry about.

The England number one has endured a turbulent start to the season, but his hurt confidence is unlikely to have been healed by his manager’s public handling of the affair.

Hart answered his critics with a solid performance in the Three Lions’ 1-0 defeat to Germany, though he must still fight for his place at the Etihad. 

Never a man to suffer fools gladly, Pellegrini this week refused to answer any more questions on his decision to drop Joe Hart in favour of Romanian Costel Pantilimon. The Chilean gaffer seems to have backtracked from his previous decision to dress down his goalkeeper in the full glare of the media spotlight; he insists, however, that Hart “remains positive”.

Indeed, Pellegrini insists the spell on the sidelines will benefit Hart. It is not the first setback in his career, having also been loaned out to Tranmere, Blackpool and Birmingham during his time in Manchester.

He found himself under fire earlier this season after an inept performance against Bayern Munich in the Champions League, from which Pellegrini vowed he would recover. 

As one of the most senior figures in the dressing room, however, Hart’s ill-treatment will raise questions about player contentment and about whether Pellegrini is yet to adapt to the management style required for English football.

Last season's Premier League runners-up currently sit eighth, and as long as City are seemingly unaware of their best starting XI, they will struggle to wedge themselves back into the title race.

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