Mancini urges City to finish with a flourish
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes that injuries and international commitments have cost his team their Premier League title, but he is adamant that they will end the campaign in style.
A 4-0 victory over Newcastle United provided one of this season’s rare examples of City scaling the heights that won them last season’s league title.
The performance coincided with the return of influential defender and club captain Vincent Kompany, who was sidelined for 60 days with a calf injury before returning for his country Belgium in mid-week.
Not only did Kompany help the Premier League’s best defence keep another clean sheet, but he also claimed one of City’s four goals; his first for the club in 11 months.
The display also underlined his manager’s claim that had Kompany been available all season, they would still be competing with leaders Manchester United, instead of trailing by 15 points.
“It’s important for us to have him back,” said Mancini. “We played without him for 60 days.
“This was very costly for us. Like when we lost Yaya Toure for one month for the Africa Cup of Nations. There are some players who are very important. If they don’t play three, four, five games, it’s a big blow.
“We got all our players back today. If we had had them all season, maybe it would have been different. Now we have eight Premier League games and an FA Cup semi-final, so it’s important to have good form from our players.”
The looming FA Cup semi-final, against either Manchester United or Chelsea on April 14, is City’s last realistic chance of ending the season with silverware, especially as the winners of that tie will start the final, against either Wigan Athletic or Millwall, as strong favourites.
In the light of that, City’s impressive showing against Newcastle, which featured first-half goals from Carlos Tevez and David Silva before Kompany and a James Perch own goal doubled the advantage after the break, was important.
“We played very well,” said Mancini. “Maybe it’s too late, but it’s important. We have another month left.
“Now it’s impossible we can win the title, but it’s important we finish the season well. Every top team, when you can’t win the title, it’s important you finish well.”
The City manager, however, refused to be drawn into an analysis of exactly how much closer City might have been to their bitter rivals given a clean bill of health, and he sportingly conceded that United will be deserved champions if and when they mathematically secure the crown.
“In football you can’t think like this,” said Mancini. “In the end, all that is important is whether you win or not. But United deserve to stay at the top – we can say nothing about this.”
City appear to be entering the closing stages of the season with a completely clean bill of health.
Midfielder Jack Rodwell is returning from a hamstring injury and promising young defender Matija Nastasic is expected to be fit for City’s next league fixture, the Manchester derby visit to Old Trafford on April 8.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew conceded that a position just three points above the relegation zone leaves his team in definite danger of losing their Premier League status.
“With our best side out today, we might have struggled against this Man City team,” said Pardew, who had a number of key absentees. “We’ve got to do what we’ve got to in our other games. They’re the ones we look forward to now.
“I don’t think we were ever out of the relegation fight. Until you get to 40 points, you’re never out of it and we haven’t looked away from that.”