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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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.

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor