Manchester City v Manchester United: we wanted a win, they wanted a draw, says Roberto Mancini
It was a day of much talk, with 90 minutes of live action as its footnote. Yet all of the thousands of words spoken and written about last night’s game will eventually fade to black.
Roberto Mancini dismissed Manchester United as having only “wanted a draw” following a touchline clash with Sir Alex Ferguson during Manchester City’s crucial 1-0 derby victory at the Etihad Stadium.
City’s win, their second over United in the league season, moved them to the top of the league on goal difference with just two games left to play after a defeat Ferguson admitted was “damaging” to his team’s title hopes.
Mancini’s spat with Ferguson, following a second-half foul by Nigel de Jong on Danny Welbeck, proved the biggest flashpoint of an absorbing clash between the Premier League’s top two.
While Mancini and Ferguson shook hands after the game, the City manager aimed a verbal swipe at his counterpart by claiming the difference between the two teams was the home side’s determination to win.
“What was the key? That we wanted to win and they wanted a draw.” Mancini said. “This is the difference, but this can happen.
“I think that every manager can choose his tactics and for them, it was important to play for a draw. With a draw, they knew the championship was finished.
“We played better and deserved to win, but it was difficult because they had so many men behind the ball.”
The managers’ clash was down to the Italian’s badgering of referee Andre Marriner, Ferguson said.
“He was badgering the referee the whole game, the fourth official and the linesman. He was complaining about the referees the other week - he can’t be complaining tonight, that’s for sure.”
Mancini hit back with a sarcastic retort. “Him? Me? Him? Who said this? Him, no?” Mancini said. “He doesn’t talk with the referee or the fourth official? No, never.
“I didn’t speak with him [Ferguson], he came towards me, but I can understand. I said nothing against him, only spoke to the fourth official.
“He [Ferguson] told me some kind words and I don’t know why. I answered him, but afterwards, it was finished. I can understand because at this moment, the tension is high.” With City due to travel to Newcastle on Sunday and United at home to Swansea, the title race cannot be decided until the final day of the campaign, when City host QPR and United travel to Sunderland.
But Ferguson admitted hopes of a 20th league title were now out of their hands. To make matters worse, Welbeck left the ground on crutches.
“Yes, I think they [City] are in the driving seat now.” Ferguson said. “They only need to win two games of football. I can’t complain about the result. They were more threatening and it’s damaging to us.
“But it is not over yet. As long as there are games to play it is not over, but they have an eight-goal advantage and that is a big advantage at this stage of the season.”
Despite the victory, Mancini continued to insist that United retained the advantage in the title race, saying they had easier games to play.
“We have two strong games, against Newcastle and QPR, one is fighting for the Champions League and one for relegation.
“It is important that we are top now, but it is more important to be top on May 13.
“This changes nothing. We are top, but we need to win the next two games.
“Anything can happen and we still have big respect for United because we know they have a strong team.” City have overturned an eight-point deficit in the space of three weeks to dislodge United from top spot, but Mancini has warned his players against believing that the hard work has now been done.
He said: “Football is crazy, but it is important to believe in yourself when you have a bad moment. We were on top for 28 games and I think we deserve another chance.
“But it is not finished and if we think it is finished, it will be a big mistake. I don’t know if, four weeks ago, we believe in this, but we have a big chance.”