The Manchester City coach was just pulling into Molineux at around 2.30pm when Sir Alex Ferguson issued the words he would have wanted to be heard by those on board: "We've given them the initiative..."
It does not require 25 years at the top of football management to know that Roberto Mancini – the blue scarf around his neck seeming rather like an albatross – might be susceptible to a turning of the screw. But the Italian would not be frustrated again. He reverted to something distinctly, pragmatically, Italian to seal these points – relegating Wolves in the process. City's goal difference is six better than United's and a win of any kind when the two titans collide at the Etihad Stadium a week tonight would mean that it will not come down to goals.
The win allowed Mancini to maintain his public pretence last night that only United can win the title. "No, it's not in our hands. We are three points less and we play two other difficult games after the derby," Mancini claimed. "Congratulations [to United] for this title. Maybe you can [bet] 100 per cent on United winning it. We don't have any pressure because we don't have any chance of winning [the title]." This self-serving line is wearing a bit thin now that City's destiny is in their own hands. But he insisted that only after the United game would he reappraise his position on title prospects.
City were not initially sure-footed yesterday. There were efforts from distance by both Sébastien Bassong and David Davis, and if there were a moment when you sensed a case of City-itis, this was it. But soon enough it was like shooting fish in a barrel for City and, in particular, Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero, making their fourth Premier League start together. City have now won all those games, with the two Argentines scoring 12 of their 15 goals. Bassong and Richard Stearman simply couldn't handle them.
Tevez, Aguero and Gareth Barry all had chances. Samir Nasri should have put City ahead after 16 minutes but shot wide, and then Gaël Clichy nutmegged Michael Kightly and swept a 30-yard ball behind Bassong where Aguero, City's top scorer, steered it in.
The City euphoria which greeted their second as Nasri lashed home contrasted with Wolves' gallows humour. "Whatever will be, will be. We're going to Barnsley," sang the crowd. Wolves' interim manager, Terry Connor, later spoke movingly about relegation. "I can't put it into words," he said, close to tears. "I've been here 13 years and it's a raw, emotional, and tough day for everybody. This club has had some great days but we have not been good enough in the league this season."Reuse content