Mancini - one trophy can change everything
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini wants to build a dynasty to match the trophy-gathering machine Sir Alex Ferguson has created at Manchester United.
Despite a general air of negativity that has attached itself to City for much of the season, the Blues head into tomorrow's eagerly-anticipated FA Cup semi-final still on track to match pre-season expectations.
Mancini is supremely confident about securing the top-four finish in the Barclays Premier League demanded by super-rich owner Sheikh Mansour, while an end to that much-debated 35-year trophy drought is still in reach.
At Wembley, City are aiming to take a significant stride towards that objective.
The fact United stand in their way merely works as a useful tool for Mancini to point out his overall aims for the Eastlands outfit.
"I have respect for Manchester United because they have won everything for many years," said the Italian.
"To begin with, they won a single trophy after a long time with nothing. Now we are in the same position.
"We can go on to do what United have done. We have a chance tomorrow and for this we should be happy."
The comparison is not exact.
When Mark Robins inspired United to the FA Cup triumph in 1990 that saved Ferguson's job and gave him the time to create the monolith United have gone on to become, he did so just five years after their last trophy under Ron Atkinson.
A 26-year title famine was not brought to an end for another three years, which, give or take a decade, generated the same sense of failure at Old Trafford that City have had to cope with.
Ferguson has never spoken about whether his long hunt for trophies and titles would be tolerated in the modern game.
Mancini is certain it would not.
"It took Ferguson seven years to win the league," he observed.
"Today is very different from 25 years ago. Today if you are a manager who wins nothing for six or seven years, it is difficult.
"After 15 months I am very happy in my job because I know how difficult it is to build a team to win trophies."
Even when the gap between Manchester's warring factions was at its greatest, City were still capable of causing the odd shock, which is why no one from the red half of the city is taking anything for granted now.
But some derbies are more important than others.
United denied City in last season's Carling Cup semi-final and now they are intent on doing it again, with even Ferguson acknowledging how significant that first trophy can be.
"I can remember that first trophy," he said.
"It was a big moment for us. Winning the first trophy at any level is always important. I experienced it at Aberdeen and St Mirren and also with United.
"I don't know if City are obsessed with it. I can't judge that at all.
"But it is obvious with the money that has been invested, they have big plans."
However, as Mancini knows and older United fans can recall, big plans do not automatically translate into silverware.
Money must be invested properly, players must be selected at the right time and even then a bit of luck is required.
In that regard, City are out of it given skipper and talisman Carlos Tevez is missing with a hamstring injury.
The Argentinian is too early into his recovery programme for Mancini to take a gamble, as he will do with Micah Richards, who will bring solidity to a defence that performed so badly at Liverpool on Monday.
Indeed, for the money Mancini has spent, it is surprising how few realistic options he has.
Certainly it will be far easier to come up with the Italian's starting line-up than Ferguson's, with so much depending upon the performances of key men David Silva and Yaya Toure, plus the impact made by what combination of Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko Mancini opts to use.
"The first trophy is the hardest one to win," said the City chief.
"It doesn't depend on the money you spend. Every top club should spend money.
"But it is important to win a title. For this I think if we go into the final, we can change everything."