Second will not satisfy City craving

Mancini and De Jong will not be happy with anything less than a major trophy

For Manchester City, it will be silverware or bust. Overtaken by the relentless march of Manchester United and facing elimination from the Europa League this evening, neither the manager nor his senior players will take any comfort from finishing second, a height the club has not scaled since 1977.

Both Roberto Mancini and Nigel de Jong argued that after all they had achieved this season, finishing without a trophy would be tantamount to failure. Neither man was prepared for the easy argument that a second-placed finish would still represent progress.

"Our target is to win a trophy; our main goal is to win the Premier League," said De Jong before tonight's encounter with Sporting Lisbon, where City will try to overturn a 1-0 deficit. "The only way we can succeed this season is to win one of the prizes. After we won the FA Cup, everybody became hungry for more. That has to be the ambition of this club."

Nevertheless, Mancini and his rival, Sir Alex Ferguson, have both conceded that playing matches on a Thursday and a Sunday, as the Europa League schedule demands, would disrupt their drive for the championship. Asked if he wanted Manchester United to go out to Athletic Bilbao this evening, Mancini replied, very definitely, that he wanted United to stay in the competition.

 

Mancini had drawn criticism by choosing to remain in Portugal after defeat in the Jose Alvalade Stadium and flying his squad directly to Wales from their base in Estoril, arriving on Saturday evening. "You have got to be mentally strong," said De Jong, discussing the defeat to Swansea that followed. "It is a long season, we are still in two competitions and it takes a lot from the players.

"But we brought players in for a reason – to make the squad bigger and stronger. We cannot have any excuses at the end of the day. It [playing Thursdays and Sundays] means you don't have so many options to do training sessions. If you have two games, one after the other, it is hard to get everybody in shape for the next one."

Of the two Manchester clubs, City would covet the Europa League trophy more and have a better chance of staying in the competition, even a goal down to a side that has never been knocked out by English opposition. Their 4-0 demolition of Porto, a far better team than Sporting Lisbon, in the last round demonstrated what City are capable of at the Etihad Stadium. In this competition, Sporting have won one of their five away fixtures.

Despite the fact he was not declared as part of Manchester City's Europa League squad, Carlos Tevez did train with the men whom he once thought never to call his team-mates again yesterday. This could be the last match in which the Argentine is a shadow on the sidelines, though, with Mancini confirming that he may be fit enough to play some part against Chelsea on Wednesday. "It depends on him," said Mancini. "If he is OK, then probably, but it depends on a lot of things."

There are too many comparisons with the late arrival of Rodney Marsh at Maine Road, the move that was to fatally unbalance City's title ambitions in 1972, for anyone to be entirely comfortable with Tevez's return. There will be a centre forward who will have led the line while Tevez was sulking in Argentina who will have to make way for him, and the impact that might have can be imagined,

However, De Jong argued that if it meant the difference between Manchester City winning the title or failing, it is an experiment that should be tried. "Of course, he has had his difficulties with the club but he is here now and we want to look to the future not the past," said the Dutchman.

"Everyone can make a difference; everybody knows his qualities – he has never lost them. It is not about being fair. Everyone knows the problems he has had with the club but for us the main goal has been to win the Premier League and nothing should distract us from that. If that means Carlos is part of things for the last few games of the season, then so be it."

Mancini feels for 'crying' fan

Roberto Mancini has promised to win the title for the Manchester City fan who broke down in tears as they were overtaken by Manchester United. John Millington was caught on camera at Swansea apparently sobbing when City lost the leadership of the Premier League they had held since October.

"We were very disappointed for our supporters after the Swansea game because I saw on television one of our supporters crying," said the Manchester City manager. "For this guy and all the supporters we want to change things."

Millington, 26, said he had been overcome by a combination of beer, having to get up at four in the morning to travel to south Wales and frustration, but denied he was in floods of tears. On the bus back, Millington said his fellow passengers kept serenading him with choruses of Oasis's 2002 single, 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out.'

Suggested Topics
News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album