Mancini over the blue moon at City triumph
Manchester City 1
Manchester Utd 0
Even Roberto Mancini, still acquiring a deeper understanding of the rhythms and intense rivalries of his adopted city, knew what was required.
It related to the Manchester United fans' banner at Old Trafford mocking City's long, long wait for a trophy. "We hope we can take it off this year,'' said Mancini.
It has been 35 years since City last won a trophy of note, a point the Stretford End revels in making, but Saturday's success felt more than a stride into the May 14 FA Cup final.
Defeating United made it all the more sweeter, all the more significant. Yaya Toure breaking through a back-line containing such talents as Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar was the decisive moment in the game; it also instilled huge belief for the future.
A higher tempo in the second half, and pressing higher up the pitch, proved to City the way ahead.
Keeping United at bay late on, particularly through the excellent pair of Vincent Kompany and Joe Hart, added to the sense that City were developing a greater resilience.
Mancini immediately saw the benefits of the cup to his team's general well-being. "If we win the FA Cup I think we can play for the title,'' said the Italian, looking forward to next season.
"Because we improve our mentality, because we improve our team next year."
As United remain the benchmark for trophy-gathering consistency, City take particular heart from the identity of Saturday's victims.
"You can win against United only if you play very strong, very concentrated,'' continued Mancini. "They win because they are the more experienced. If we work, we can 'arrive' very close with them.
"It is important because our mentality will be more strong because we beat United. United played with the best team -- without (Wayne) Rooney but we played without (Carlos) Tevez. We can beat every team because this year we beat Chelsea, Liverpool, United. But we can also lose to teams like Liverpool."
Typical City, their fans may reflect -- awful at Anfield, warrior-like at Wembley five days later. It is that consistency Mancini craves, although he also admitted he needed to eradicate errors.
"Against Liverpool it was my fault because I prepared very badly the game. I thought it was easy to play against Liverpool. Instead Liverpool at home is a strong team. If you don't play 100 pc it is difficult to win."
For all their immense investment, building and bonding a team can never be achieved overnight, whatever the quality of the recruits.
"The manager needs time because in one year you cannot build a strong team but it is important that you improve every week,'' added Mancini.
"Many times they ask me about spending but we didn't buy Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi. We bought young players, good players. All these players need to improve because this is the first year they are playing Premier League.
"Many years ago when fantastic players came to England like Eric Cantona, when they started it was difficult. For every player it is difficult.''
They will improve, even those like David Silva who have taken so effortlessly to the quickened rigours of English football. The talented, ego-free Spaniard is so admired within Eastlands that it would be no surprise to find the club shaping some of their marketing campaigns around him.
Whether Mario Balotelli will ever learn remains to be seen. The forward delivered a mature display for 90 minutes, excepting a nasty challenge on Michael Carrick, and then taunted the United fans, provoking a splenetic response from Anderson and Ferdinand.
Briefly moody himself as a young striker, Mancini still did not see any of himself in Balotelli. "No, no, no," he said. "First I was better as a player. He is young, he can improve in one week or two months. He needs more time.''
As City fans danced off jubilantly into the north London night, United supporters were left to reflect on Dimitar Berbatov's two first-half misses and the cost of Rooney's suspension.
It was still a surprise that Javier Hernandez did not start, although Alex Ferguson was focusing on tomorrow's Premier League assignment at Newcastle.
Ferguson must also juggle his midfield resources with Paul Scholes suspended following that high, late and nasty tackle on Pablo Zabaleta.
How United miss Darren Fletcher, still recovering from a virus. United will regroup, lick their wounds, and doubtless take out their frustration on Newcastle. They possess too much quality to let the title slip now.
City also turn their attention to the Premier League with Mancini adamant that they would secure qualification for the Champions League. "We finish in the top four,'' he promised. And the cup? "If we play with the same spirit we can win."
They need to show that spirit game in, game out. That is what United have done under Ferguson. (© Daily Telegraph, London)