City boss plays mind games by praising United's 'spirit' despite rout of Baggies

Andy Hampson

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini claims his side are still out of title contention despite an unexpected slip by Manchester United last night.

City thrashed West Brom 4-0 at the Etihad Stadium to move within five points of United as the Premier League leaders slumped to a shock loss at Wigan.

City showed why they were once firm title favourites as Carlos Tevez scored for the first time in 11 months, Sergio Aguero struck twice and David Silva capped a return to form with a fourth.


Despite that, with just five games to go, even though one of them is against United, Mancini feels it is too little too late.

The Italian, who claimed he was not playing mind games, said: "United are a fantastic team and I don't think they can lose five points.

"I fight always, every day, and also my team but now I think it is too late.

"I think they have fantastic spirit, United. We don't have the same spirit and for this reason I think this is very difficult."

City were without injured talisman Yaya Toure and the suspended Mario Balotelli but played with a verve reminiscent of their free-flowing, early-season best.

Aguero was outstanding, taking his tally for the season to 26, but it was his fellow Argentinian Tevez who grabbed the headline goal.

Tevez was making his first start since returning to training following the conclusion of his infamous dispute with the club. Mancini said: "I am pleased with all the players because it was important to come back and play like one month ago and to score four goals.

"I am happy for Carlos because he scored a goal. He is not ready to play 90 minutes, it is difficult.

"If Carlos continues to play he can improve his performance."

City led only 1-0 at the interval and appeared to be lifted when news United had fallen behind filtered through. Mancini, however, tried to convince the press he did not know United had been playing at the same time.

He said in his press conference: "I thought they played tomorrow -- only when the game finished I knew they had played tonight."


But having earlier joked about that in a radio interview, the Italian was speaking tongue-in-cheek.

Mancini also said Balotelli could now play again this season after avoiding an extended ban for an unpunished challenge on Arsenal's Alex Song at the weekend.

"Yes, for the Manchester United game he will be ready," Mancini said.

West Brom boss Roy Hodgson had no complaints about the result.

He said: "We came here with dreams and hopes of being able to dent Man City and put a blemish on their home record but we were unable to do so.

"They were the better team and they won deservedly and convincingly."