European run for Manchester United could help Manchester City: Mancini
MANCHESTER - Agence France-Presse
Manchester City's players react after Liverpool's Steven Gerrard (unseen) scored during their English Premier League soccer match at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, northern England February 3, 2013. REUTERS photoManchester City manager Roberto Mancini on Friday said he hoped rivals United go all the way in the Champions League as it would boost the Blues' Premier League hopes.
City head into their trip to Southampton on Saturday nine points behind Alex Ferguson's side, who host Everton on Sunday, amid doubts that they will be able to pull back the deficit and retain the title they won last year, with 13 games to play.
But despite two draws in their last two outings, Mancini refused to write off his team's chances and believes a Champions League run for United -- which startson Wednesday with a last 16 first leg at Real Madrid -- can help City in the league.
"If Manchester United draw or lose (at Southampton), the title race is re-opened. It is clear we need to do better than in the last two games," he told a news conference. "It is normal when you play in the Champions League against Real Madrid that you can lose your strength in this game.
"We support Manchester United to go through in the Champions League. At the end of the day, if United win all the games from now to the end in the Premier League they deserve to win.
"This is football. But I am sure we have another chance." The Italian coach has been the target of renewed speculation about his future, despite signing a new five-year contract in the close season. But he insisted that he would still be at the Etihad Stadium next season.
"These are stupid things. We have 13 games (left), the season is long. (The situation) can change in two or three games. This is our focus, not to talk about new players. We buy a striker, we sell a defender. This is not true." Asked whether he will stay on, Mancini added: "Yes, yes. Why not?" Since arriving in northwest England at the end of 2009, Mancini has won the FA Cup and the Premier League title in his first two full seasons.
He insisted that he does not have to win the league again for the current campaign to be judged a success, as he thinks City have proven they have been better than both United and European champions Chelsea domestically throughout his period in charge.
"I think that we should work for this. Because like last year where no one believed we could win the title, in the end we won. This year could be the same," he added.
"We are a strong team. We were unlucky because we lost two or three players in January for the African Cup. Also, if we believe in our job, we can do this.
"I think it is important we are there, on the top always, we fight for the title every year. If another team is better than you, you should accept this.
"But I don't think in these two years there is a team that has played better than us. Manchester United is a strong team, Chelsea is a strong team but I think in the last two years Manchester City is the team that played better in the Premier League." Mancini is hopeful that captain Vincent Kompany will overcome a calf problem to return to the side at St Mary's, meaning Micah Richards is the only long-term absentee.
The former Inter coach is expecting Yaya Toure to have a significant impact now the Ivory Coast midfielder has returned from the African Nations Cup, following the country's quarter-final defeat by finalists Nigeria.
Mancini said the former Barcelona midfielder had been sorely missed while he was on international duty.
"Kolo (Toure) was a problem because we had a problem with the defenders, two or three defenders injured. Yaya is an important player for us. Also when he doesn't play, on the pitch he is important. We've missed him a lot in these 20 days."