Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini last night declared that his club would be spurred on by the latest attack from Germany, in which the former Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann has welcomed their exit from the Champions League.
Even by the standards set by Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Lehmann's outburst on German TV was extraordinary. City, he said, "play very, very boring football. They just make their opponents fall asleep with lots of possession. That is not tactically very demanding."
Mancini, who suggested yesterday that City would have more desire to compete to win the Europa League than Manchester United, was sanguine about his side's exit from the tournament and said the public attacks which have accompanied his side's journey through the tournament would be stored up. "I think we need to respect everyone's opinions," Mancini said. "For us it can be useful, it can help push us on. When you receive criticism or when you lose a big game, it's an important moment.
"In that moment you can improve because it makes you stronger as a team and as a man. I think every player thinks like me. This is important to win. To get that strong mentality. But when you have lost, you are disappointed but you work more, you work hard."
City may spend more, too. For the first time, there appeared to be particular emphasis from Mancini yesterday on the defensive errors which have characterised the club's campaign in Group A and the manager may have a reconstructed back four before Europa League competition resumes in the spring. "We have conceded too many goals in the group. I think we can improve on this. In the Champions League you can't concede many goals, you have to pay attention every game and you must arrive at your final game not depending on another team like Naples. That's always difficult."
Mancini agreed with the observation of Manchester United's Patrice Evra that the Premier League is harder to win for clubs put through the Thursday-Sunday slog of the Europa League. "Maybe we can play with two different teams, go through in the Europa League and stay top of the Premier League," he said.
Nigel de Jong, whose indifferent campaign has seen Mancini prevaricating on whether or not to select him, suggested that winning the Premier League title is by far a greater aspiration than Champions League progress for City. "It's the first year [we] were in the Champions League and expectations were high, but in the group [of players] expectations weren't so high because our main target was still the Premier League," he said. "Winning the Premier League would make up for this.
"We didn't go through in the Champions League but we can't let that distract us from our main target. You can see there's a reverse league now: the Europa League is a little bit like the Champions League, with all the big teams in there. United, Porto, Olympiakos, Ajax. We could be challenging [United] for the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League."
Stefan Savic has responded to teammate's Kolo Touré's suggestions that he is a weaker choice at centre-half than the Ivorian, suggesting that Touré "should not" have made such comments, though he accepts his claims that he was taken out of context.
"He said to me that he didn't say anything," the Montenegrin said. "Straight away after that came out in the newspaper he spoke with me and said he didn't tell them anything and I can only believe him. I don't think he should say something like that."
Touré was reported by the French So Foot magazine as saying: "When you look at the performance of Savic [on his league debut] against QPR – excuse me, I'm relaxed."
Savic admitted that his full Premier League debut at Loftus Road had been testing but that he was "getting used" to the pace of the English game. "I came from the Serbian League, you know, and I needed a little time but now I think everything is better and the time is in front of me," he said.