Mancini promises to tear down Old Trafford banner
ROBERTO Mancini has told of his desire to tear down a banner displayed at Old Trafford mocking the trophy drought that Manchester City have endured since 1976.
The so-called City Ticker banner was positioned beneath the top tier of United's Stretford End stand by the Stretford End Flags supporters' organisation in collaboration with the club and has been a thorn in the side of City's long-suffering fans since it was first unfurled more than a decade ago.
Should City fail to win a trophy by February 28 -- the anniversary of their League Cup win in 1976 and by coincidence the date of this year's Carling Cup final, which the blue half of Manchester hope to reach at the expense of their city rivals -- then the counter will go from 33 to 34 years, a milestone that Mancini is hell-bent on avoiding.
"When we go to Old Trafford, we will take that banner down," Mancini said with a steely determination. "This is the last year (it will be displayed) because we will win."
The Stretford End Flags group has other ideas, however. "The City barren years continue to tick on and the banner will continue to remind them of this," an entry on their website reads.
"If only Robinson Crusoe had such a visible reminder whilst stuck on his desert island, or Noah whilst floating about in his Ark, all lengthy spells that didn't last as long as City's massive hunt for a trophy!
"The City ticker banner is designed to progress as each trophyless year passes, with a series of numbers installed inside the banner's design, that get rotated a couple of times a season, showing the full year on February 28."
If the forthcoming Carling Cup semi-final between the Manchester clubs needed any extra spice, then little more than a fortnight into his tenure as City manager, Mancini has added it. If anything, yesterday's postponement of the first leg has served only to intensify the expectation surrounding the tie.
The rivalry in Manchester is never anything less than intense, but it has been made even more powerful after the takeover of City by Sheikh Mansour, one of the world's richest men, who has raised the profile and expectations of the club to such a degree that they feel ready to challenge United's status as Britain's predominant club.
The most vivid illustration of their growing boldness came after the signing of Carlos Tevez last summer. The striker had become a darling of the United fans during a loan spell at Old Trafford, but rejected the chance to remain with the club, instead signing a permanent deal with their local rivals. City duly celebrated the coup by unfurling a sky-blue poster of the Argentinian complete with a "Welcome to Manchester" message.
The poster, situated on the edge of the city boundary next to Salford and the borough of Trafford, the area in which the United ground is situated, played on the claim by many City followers that they alone support a club from Manchester proper. Alex Ferguson, the United manager, dismissed it as "arrogance" and "cockiness".
At least relations between the managers appear cordial. Mancini refused to retaliate after Ferguson's recent assertion that he will see off 20 City managers, with the former Inter Milan coach being the 14th incumbent in the City hot seat since Ferguson took over at Old Trafford in 1986.
"I hope I stay for a long time, but I'm sure Ferguson was having a joke," Mancini said, with a laugh. "I met Ferguson two years ago in a friendly match at Old Trafford when I was coach of Inter -- that is the only time. I also played against United for Lazio in the 1999 European Super Cup when Marcelo Salas scored the winning goal for us, so I have a winning record against Ferguson.
"He has not been in touch with me since I came here to take over at City. He doesn't have my telephone number, but I have a big bottle of wine waiting for him after the match at Eastlands." (© The Times, London)