Chipper Mancini is 'happy' to hear the Hughes barbs...

Even the abuse is a delight when, as Roberto Mancini put it yesterday, you have taken your football club to its "best moment in the last 40 years".

This time last week Mark Hughes was describing him as an "autocratic" manager for whom it is "his way or the highway" but the current occupant of the Manchester City manager's chair brushed that away as nonchalantly yesterday as he has Manchester United. "I don't know Mark Hughes and he doesn't know me but I'm happy when he talks to the newspapers because before every game that he talks we win 6-1, 4-1. Every game," Mancini said.

Before facing Mancini at Craven Cottage last November Hughes accused Mancini of having shown a lack of professional respect in welcoming City's overtures before the Welshman had been sacked. City won that match 4-1. "Yes, it was the same [then]," he added. "I'm happy. If he talks about me before every game I'd be happy." He would not disparage another manager, he said. "Absolutely not because I don't know all the managers here. I don't have any problem. I don't know because I don't know [Hughes]. I met him two or three times. It's impossible for me [to say] but I have respect for his opinion."

Even abusive Manchester United fans delighted Mancini on the drive home from Old Trafford last Sunday. "I had some United fans saying, 'I'm red but congratulations for the victory,'" he chuckled. "Two or three were saying 'f*** off!'. You can understand after the game it's difficult."

The clouds have not entirely lifted over the Etihad Stadium. It has been a bad week for City in the war with Carlos Tevez and though Mancini attempted to airbrush the Argentinian out of the picture yesterday – asserting that "if we don't have any injuries or problems with the players we have I think that we can continue with three strikers". City have, significantly, accepted that they will have to play Tevez again this season, to avoid falling foul of Fifa regulations.

Article 15 of Fifa's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players stipulates that the striker is entitled to terminate his contract under "sporting just cause" next summer if he has appeared or been on the field for less than 10 per cent of City's overall game time by then.

City are determined to avoid a repeat of the case of Goran Pandev, the Macedonian forward sidelined by Lazio, who filed for termination of his contract and was awarded €170,000 for emotional distress. This means that Mancini may be forced to give Tevez, whom City have said they will not allow to leave for less than £40m in January, the equivalent of nearly four full games if he is not sold in that window. Legal precedent is that the 10 per cent definition relates to a club's overall game time. Based on City playing 60 matches this season (they played 59 last term), Tevez will have to play 540 minutes, which means another 351 to find. Using up the time through substitutes' appearances will be difficult.

Mancini, meanwhile, focuses on preventing complacency, with his side five points clear. City beat United home and away under Sven Goran Eriksson in 2008, for example, but that was the highlight of the campaign. "They were a different team when Sven was the manager," Mancini reflected. "In one game you can beat any team but winning the title is different. If we won the title but lost to United, I'd be happy."

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