Mancini hails title rivals United

Roberto Mancini

Roberto Mancini

First published in National Sport © by

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has attempted some reverse psychology in the Premier League mind games battle by heaping praise on title rivals Manchester United.

Red Devils assistant-boss Rene Meulensteen highlighted the spirit within United's camp as the major reason for their present five-point lead, coupled with its better balance. Sir Alex Ferguson refused to elaborate on Meulensteen's comments, aware of their potential for riling City and offering them easy motivation ahead of their encounter with Norwich.

However, rather than defend his squad, Mancini said Meulensteen was right. "I agree with him," said the City chief. "This is why I say we can't win. They have big experience and a fantastic team. They have everything. We have nothing."

The Italian added: "But I am proud of my players for everything, including our mistakes. We are not on the moon. We are normal, like all normal people we can make mistakes."

After cutting United's lead to five points by beating West Brom on Sunday, victory at Norwich will slice further into their rivals' advantage ahead of their encounter with Aston Villa on Sunday. However, Mancini has warned of the obvious dangers lying in wait at Carrow Road.

Mancini clearly does not see motivation or focus being a problem for the eagerly-awaited derby encounter at the Etihad Stadium on April 30. The same cannot be said for this weekend.

"The derby is easy," he said. "We can lose it but it is not a hard game. We don't have any problem with it.

"You know when you play against United or Chelsea, your concentration is 100%. The problem will be against Norwich. Against Norwich you might think it is an easy game.

"But it will be really tough. They are a good team and we have only had two days to recover."

City could be strengthened by the return of Yaya Toure, who missed out in midweek after picking up a knee injury in the early stages of last Sunday's defeat at Arsenal.

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