Speaking to the BBC after the match, Mancini damned the striker with faint praise when asked about the forward's goal.
"I think that he can do better," Mancini said, "He scored one goal. An important goal and now I hope he can continue to improve. For me, he didn't play very well."
The match was Balotelli's first start in several weeks, as he was first dropped for not working hard enough during training and then kept out of the lineup further with a back injury.
Mancini wrestled publicly with the Balotelli question throughout City's championship campaign last season. It seems the title has changed nothing in the manager's mind as he alternates between praising his young Italian striker's prodigious talent while lamenting his attitude and commitment to the team.
The question remains whether Manchester City can defend the league while going through another season of the melodrama that is Mancini and Balotelli.
If Mancini can again strike the right balance with his mercurial player, it could prove a vital ingredient in another title. If not, the trophy could very well head across town to Old Trafford.
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