Mancini says Manchester City can usurp United

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The Independent Football

Roberto Mancini has claimed Manchester City could one day knock Manchester United off their pedestal as England's biggest club.

Mancini will experience his first local derby at Eastlands tomorrow knowing victory in the two-legged semi-final would secure City a place in a major domestic showpiece for the first time since 1981.

Given the amounts of cash owner Sheikh Mansour has already invested, with the promise of much more to come, it seems only a matter of time before a 34-year trophy drought comes to an end as well.

And, given United's much-publicised financial restraints, there are some who feel it is also only a matter of time before the Red Devils are usurped as top dogs.

It may seem improbable given United have joined Liverpool on 18 titles by winning 11 since the Premier League was formed in 1992, but Mancini does not believe it is beyond the realms of possibility.

"If we work well, it is possible," said the Italian.

"United have a big history. They have been a good team for many years.

"City can become a big team in the next year. It is most important that we get into the top four.

"That would change the situations. Surely it would be better if City were also a big club in the future because then Manchester could have two clubs in the Champions League."

That is the stated aim for this season, although, having scrambled into a top-four berth last weekend, City promptly fell straight back out of it again on Saturday when they were beaten at Everton.

It was Mancini's first loss, made more notable for a recurrence of Roque Santa Cruz's calf injury after just four minutes that will keep him out for at least a month and his replacement, Robinho, being substituted himself early in the second half as Shaun Wright-Phillips was introduced.

The move has been interpreted as a clear signal Mancini is not impressed by the £32.5million Brazilian's lack of effort and it is once again being suggested Robinho is heading for the Eastlands exit door, if not this month then next summer.

Mancini tried to play down such talk, although he hardly helped matters with an unfavourable comparison to Carlos Tevez.

"It was a bad night for us all. Robinho can play well but it is not always possible and on Saturday he played the same as his team-mates.

"When I put Wright-Phillips on I had to take a striker off because I cannot keep five forwards on the pitch.

"I had to decide between Robinho and Carlos."

In truth, the conclusion was an obvious one and Mancini will be pinning his hopes on Tevez to do some damage to his old club, having left Old Trafford in such acrimonious circumstances last summer.

"I hope that Carlos can score goals because he is an ex-United player," said Mancini.

"But it is important that the squad plays well. And we must not forget this match is over two games."

As Patrick Vieira's debut is on hold until he recovers from the calf injury he picked up immediately before his move from Inter Milan, Mancini is probably relieved Stephen Ireland is at least fit enough to take up a place on the bench after missing three matches with a hamstring problem.

Mancini admitted his first taste of defeat in England left him feeling angry - not so much with his team's performance, which was poor, but purely because he is a bad loser.

However, he has been made aware of a far more tense situation at United, where the financial restraints imposed by the Glazer family's controversial takeover have been laid bare.

Not that Mancini expects that to have any impact tomorrow.

"Manchester United have been on the top for many years," he said.

"It is not important if they have problems.

"On a pitch there are only players, not money."