Roberto Mancini blasted Kevin Friend for his decision not to award a free-kick for a tackle on Pablo Zabaleta in the build-up to Sunderland’s winning goal.
The controversy stemmed from Friend's decision not to award a free-kick for a tackle by Craig Gardner on the Argentine full-back immediately before former City winger Adam Johnson scored the game’s only goal.
“Maybe Zabaleta deserved a red card,” was Mancini’s sarcastic verdict.
“You need to ask the referee why it was given, not me, I was there and I saw that it was a big foul - it’s impossible that two men couldn’t see it.
“Maybe the referee ate too much for Christmas.”
City have lost 1-0 on successive visits to the Stadium of Light and the Italian admitted that history repeated itself in this Boxing Day clash.
“It was the same game as last season, like the season before and the season before that,” declared the boss.
“Maybe next year we won’t come, we won’t spend the money to come here but every time we’ve come here and lost we’ve won a title at the end of the season."
“I don’t know how it’s possible to lose this game, I think we played very well but we have one problem – we need to score… our strikers need to improve."
Mancini refused to concede that the title race had taken a decisive swing in Manchester United’s favour after Sir Alex Ferguson came up with a last minute winner against Newcastle in a 4-3 win at Old Trafford.
“Seven, six or four points, it doesn’t matter the season is long,” he said.
“United concede a lot of goals but they score a lot so they have a chance but we can recover points.
“We need to change something in our team because we can’t continue like this – we score too few goals.
“Sometimes we take too many touches and we think, 'never mind, we can score next time,' but we can’t be like that - in football, it doesn’t work like that. We have to be stronger in the penalty area."