Richards uncomfortable with Mancini's tactics
Micah Richards pointed the finger at coach Roberto Mancini after Manchester City fell to a 3-1 loss at Ajax that left their UEFA Champions League ambitions in tatters.
City were well beaten at the Amsterdam ArenA on Wednesday evening, but Richards felt that matters were not helped by Mancini's decision to switch to a three-man defence after the visitors fell 2-1 down in the second half.
There was half an hour to play when Mancini made the change, but within five minutes Christian Eriksen had struck to double Ajax's advantage, and the English champions could find no way back.
Mancini promptly rejigged his formation again, returning to a back four, but by then the damage had been done.
Defeat left City rooted to the foot of Group D, six points below leaders Borussia Dortmund and five beneath Real Madrid, with three matches to play.
Speaking to Sky Sports moments after the final whistle, Richards suggested that City's players were uncomfortable with their manager's tactical instructions.
"It is something that we have not worked on very much and it is the second time we have conceded after going to a back three," said the right-back.
"We will have to work on it. We are happy just to play, but I think the players prefer a back four. It is what the manager wants."
Mancini cut a forlorn figure in his own post-match interview, but he rebuffed suggestions that his tactical tinkering had cost City the chance of coming back into the game.
"We changed for five minutes, because we wanted to have one player in the hole," he said. "But on the pitch, we always had 11 players.
"Before (the change) we conceded two goals. I don't think this is important - three, four, five, six or seven (defenders).
"If someone wants to take that as an excuse, OK, but it's not the reason."
A night that had seemed full of promise when Samir Nasri put City in front mid-way through the first quickly unravelled, with Siem de Jong firing Ajax level on half-time before Niklas Moisander headed the hosts in front.
City facing more Champions League disappointment
Twelve months on from the disappointment of a group-stage exit in their first ever Champions League campaign, history is repeating itself for City.
Once again, they landed in the toughest group in the competition. For Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal in 2011, Real Madrid, Dortmund and Ajax in 2012.
A year ago, ten points was not enough to take City into the last 16. One year on, ten points is the best total they can hope to amass, after defeat at Madrid and a home draw with Dortmund left them with just one point in the bank.
Mancini conceded that City "need a miracle, like last year" to go through, but he was unwilling to countenance the notion that this setback might have a negative impact on the rest of his side's season.
City host Swansea City on Saturday and then travel to West Ham United before the return game against Ajax on 6 November, and the Italian called on his players to shake the disappointment from their systems as quickly as possible.
"You know that you can play bad and lose one game, like we did tonight, but the season is long and we have lots of important games."