LONDON: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is insistent that his team cannot catch neighbours United and that the reigning champions will be crowned for a record-extending 20th time at the end of the Premier League campaign.
Mancini says: “We can’t win. United have experience. They are a fantastic team. They are perfect and we are the opposite. But I am proud of my players. Like normal people we make mistakes. But if we finish with 89 points we should be really proud. To win this championship is very difficult.”
City will finish with 89 points if they win their remaining four games. In all but five of the past 16 seasons that total has been enough to win the league title.
This season will almost certainly not be one of those. But, if Mancini’s comments have been aimed at lifting the pressure of public expectation on his players and freeing them up to play their best football, then the trick is working.
Certainly that was the evidence of the 4:0 midweek win over Roy Hodgson’s West Bromwich Albion and the 6:1 thrashing of Paul Lambert’s Norwich in front of their own fans.
Carlos Tevez maintained his attempt to regain the favour of City fans he had abandoned for four months after his Munich rebellion by scoring a hat-trick. Tevez had spent much of his ‘holiday’ in Buenos Aires playing golf and thus he celebrated his third goal with a mock golf swing.
If that was Tevez’s attempt at humour then the joke was lost on City fans and probably on Mancini. They will always wonder what might have been had the tempestuously-talented Argentinian not missed more than half the season.
Starting successive league games for the first time in 11 months, Tevez volleyed home from 20 yards before he backheeled for fellow Argentinian Sergio Aguero to make it 2:0 with another volley. Andrew Surman pulled one back just after half-time but then Tevez (twice more), Aguero and Adam Johnson completed the rout.
City were without suspended Mario Balotelli who has been advised by FIFpro chief executive Theo Van Seggelen that he needs help from a psychiatrist if he is to rescue his increasingly controversial career.
In the event United – with Paul Scholes masterful in midfield – had no problems regaining their five-point advantage. They should even have scored more goals than the four with which they despatched Aston Villa very comfortably at Old Trafford. United thus set a Premier record of having scored in 48 successive league games.
Wayne Rooney scored for a fifth consecutive home game from a first-half penalty fortuitously ‘gained’ by Ashley Young. A defensive blunder by James Collins gifted a second to Danny Welbeck just before halftime and Rooney claimed his 24th of the season 16 minutes from the end. Nani wrapped up the scoring in stoppage time with his own first goal of 2012.
Manchester City ended the week having regained a goal difference advantage but that is all.
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