Mancini insists the table does, in fact, lie
Man City manager says his side do not deserve to be 15 points behind rivals United
Manchester City's Carlos Tevez celebrates after scoring against Newcastle United at The Etihad Stadium last weekend. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
United hold a 15-point advantage over their rivals heading into Monday’s derby clash at Old Trafford. With just eight games remaining, Mancini has already conceded the title to United but the Italian is determined to cut the deficit to a figure he believes more accurately reflects the on-field gap.
“We don’t deserve to stay 15 points behind," Mancini said. “They have played very well, they have won a lot of games. The last 18 (unbeaten) — the last time they lost was Norwich. They deserve to stay on the top, but not 15 points. It is not a true table.
“Now we have eight games. If we play well, if we win a lot of these games, maybe we can reduce this gap. This should be our target in this moment.”
City memorably thrashed United 6-1 when they visited Old Trafford last season. Mancini is certainly not expecting a repeat.
“This is impossible,” he said. “This can happen every 100 years.”
But he does expect his team to give everything, even though the title seems out of reach and they face Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals the following week.
He said: “If it is not important for the table or the title race, I think the derby is always a derby. It is important for us and for them. We have pressure, always. It will be like the first (derby). I think every derby is important. We want to show we don’t deserve to stay 15 points behind and we can reduce the gap from now to the end.
"But the title race is finished."
City go into the game on the back of an encouraging 4-0 thrashing of Newcastle and boosted by the news key midfielder Yaya Toure has signed a new four-year contract. The influential Ivory Coast international has committed himself to the Etihad Stadium until 2017, ending speculation he could leave in the summer.
Mancini said: “I am happy because Yaya, for me, is one of the best players in the world and we are happy he plays for us and he stays here for another four years. I think it is very important for the club.”
Toure turns 30 in May but Mancini does not see that as an issue. The Italian, speaking at a press conference to preview Monday’s game, said: “I think that Yaya is a player that can play until 36, 37 because he can play in front of the defence, like a central defender. I think he can play every position. I think when he is very old, like me, he can play as a defender.”
Toure’s agent had claimed last month that the player — who still had more than two years remaining on his previous deal — was growing impatient over the delays in reaching an agreement and issued an ultimatum. Dimitri Seluk threatened to start negotiations with other clubs if a deal was not agreed before the end of March but City were always confident talks would be concluded satisfactorily in the fullness time.
Mancini said: “We are only happy that he continues to play for us and has signed another contract. This is important for me, for him, for the club, for the players.”
Playmaker David Silva signed a new five-year contract earlier in the season and Mancini expects more deals to be agreed with existing players in the coming months. Two that could become a priority are Carlos Tevez and Gareth Barry, who will both enter the final years of their contracts in the summer.
Mancini said: “We have time to talk about this. Yaya was important — also for the other players it would be the same, in the next month, next two months. I am confident.”
Tevez was this week ordered to undertake 250 hours of community service after being convicted of driving while disqualified. Mancini does not expect the Argentinian’s punishment to hamper the club in any way. When asked if it could be a problem,
“I don’t think so, no," said Mancini. “I didn’t speak with him about this. I think that Carlos did a mistake and he will pay for this, but usually he has good behaviour."
Another City player, Samir Nasri, was also banned from driving this week, but Mancini does not think these incidents reflect badly on the club. He said: “I don’t think this. This is their private life. We can do nothing about this. This can happen sometimes."