English Premiership

Mancini plays down derby

2012-04-24 21:48
Roberto Mancini (File)

Manchester - While the British media tries to build up the importance of next week's Manchester derby, City manager Roberto Mancini is doing his best to play it down.

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson helped set the tone of most coverage when he said the game is effectively a playoff for the Premier League title, but Mancini has made a convincing case to the contrary.

Mancini has continually pointed out that each team has two games remaining after Monday's match and, with both teams having dropped points over the past few weeks, there could be more twists in the title race.

"The derby is always the game of the year," Mancini said. "For the supporters, a derby is always a different game to the others. It is important for the city. Manchester has two top teams who are in a position to play this important game.

"But for us it will just be one more game, not because we fight for this or for that. And after it there are another two games, very tough games."

True, the rivalry with City does not carry the same animosity or historical significance for United fans that comes with their clashes against Liverpool and Leeds.

United and Liverpool are by some distance England's most successful ever clubs, while the acrimonious rivalry with Leeds even goes beyond sport to a contest for supremacy between counties that stems from an ancient power struggle between royal houses.

But Mancini is wise not to even attempt to convince City fans that Monday's meeting is "just another game" for them.

City have long been in United's shadow, even tumbling into the third tier for the first time in their history while United were into their current 20-year streak of success that has taken them to an English record 19 league titles - one more than Liverpool.

City have just two league titles to their name - the most recent 44 years ago - but last season's FA Cup final win and a 6-1 victory at Old Trafford earlier this season indicates that the balance could be shifting their way.

That defeat to City was Ferguson's worst against any team in his 26 years in charge of United. Until then, things had gone relatively smoothly for most of his 44 Manchester derbies.

Even setbacks were compensated for, with a 5-1 defeat at Maine Road in 1989 avenged by a 5-0 Old Trafford victory five years later. A 2-1 defeat in the 2010 League Cup semi-finals was rendered unimportant by a 3-1 second-leg win the following week.

Only with a 1-0 FA Cup semi-final win for City and October's rout at Old Trafford has United truly faltered under Ferguson against City.

"The one at Old Trafford was a fantastic derby," Mancini said. "But it was a game that can happen only once every hundred years."

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