This year has been the polar opposite: it's been back to the Pearce and Eriksson era Ireland, patchy, inconsistent, in and out of the side. When Hughes signed Carlos Tévez and played him in the hole there was no space for Ireland in the side. He tried moving him back into a midfield two but Ireland doesn't have the discipline for it. Mancini tried Ireland a few times in his favoured role in 4-2-3-1 but devoid of form and confidence he did little. So it's not a surprise to see Ireland speaking in these terms to the MEN today:
"It's been difficult," said Ireland, talking exclusively at a charity event for Francis House Children's Hospice.I'm increasingly resigned to his leaving this summer. He's at the age where he if he is not a part of the manager's plans there's little point in his sticking around. It's a shame but Mancini clearly doesn't fancy him and with him sticking around, and linked with other attacking midfielders, Ireland looks even further away from the 2010/11 team. I think he'd be a good buy for Spurs, for Villa, for Everton. I'm terrified, though, of him at United. Actually terrified, too, not like I am of Kolo's positioning or Bridge up against a good winger, but like I am of Sheikh Mansour pulling out his money or City getting kicked out of English football for financial misconduct. Seeing Ireland in a United shirt would honestly remove part of my soul for ever.
"It's been difficult because I've only played 15 or 16 times which is nowhere near the amount I played last year.
"When I have played, I haven't played in my position and it's been a difficult and frustrating season for me.
"I think there's a question mark over next year for me and I don't know what will happen, but it's out of my hands.