Manchester derby will be a showdown of great significance
Mancini is not short of confidence either, coolly sending on a defender in place of Sergio Aguero late in the game and trusting in Balotelli and those already on the pitch to break the deadlock while Carlos Tevez and Edin Dzeko were kept in reserve for the challenges to come.
That performance probably left City fans more sanguine about the derby than their United counterparts, who were relieved to see their side take the lead for a change, against West Ham United, but then had to sit through 89 minutes of tedium.
“It wasn’t a classic,” Michael Carrick admitted. “We weren’t at our best and we didn’t produce much flowing football or create many chances.
“ A clean sheet is the biggest plus we can take from the game; it gives us something to build on because if you don’t concede a goal you don’t have to keep coming from behind.
“We’ve been doing that too often, making things harder than they should be. We would like to get back to where we were a year or two ago when we were starting games really well and killing teams off really early.”
If that is the key to title success then neither Manchester club have managed it too often this season. The perception is that both have been playing well below their best, with City not finding goals or wins as easy to come by as last season and United constantly putting themselves under pressure through defensive lapses.
Both sides have attacking talent to spare, though if defensive security is going to be a factor Mancini appears to have found a settled central partnership in Vincent Kompany and the 19-year-old Matija Nastasic.
Even though Joleon Lescott is back to full fitness he did not even make the squad for Wigan. It was Kolo Toure who came on when late cover was needed, and Nastasic played well enough to show why he has started all of City’s last eight matches.
The victory produced their sixth clean sheet in eight Premier League games, and with just two goals conceded in October and November, as against nine for United, there is no question who enters the derby with the meanest defence.
“If we can keep the clean sheets and the unbeaten record going for as long as possible it can only help,” Barry said.
“I think we got to a similar stage unbeaten last season, but we haven’t got as many points. We need to win as many games as possible, obviously, but touch wood, the defence is looking solid again. We need to keep that up. Anyone who comes into the Premier League is bound to find their first few starts difficult, but Matija has come through that.”