Manchester City steeled by sturdy defence against Everton as they prepare for Manchester United date

Manchester City 1 Everton 1

Football is "a game of mistakes," Johan Cruyff once said – an assessment often quoted by the new Manchester City chief executive Ferran Soriano, whose management theory on the sport is that if you minimise the number of errors, you optimise the chance of success. "The ball doesn't go in by chance," Soriano is also fond of saying.

This might not feel like a heroic perspective on a sport which Cruyff made beautiful but it is a valuable one in a season when every club is erring to a greater or lesser degree.

"A lot of comparisons have been made with our form last season," said City's assistant manager David Platt after the 1-1- draw with Everton. "But the amount of goals we were scoring last season was alien. I don't think anyone was going to hit those heights on such a consistent basis."

Roberto Mancini's disinclination to discuss the game with the national daily newspapers reflected the way he has rather fallen out of love with the British media who were garlanding him with praise a year ago but even as Platt spoke, the Cruyff theory of success was being demonstrated by Manchester United's porous defence at Reading.

The least bad of Manchester's two teams will win the league and City don't feel like underdogs heading into next Sunday's derby, even though they're three points behind. Their defence – to which Matija Nastasic will return but Aleksandr Kolarov will play no part when City pursue a Europa League place on the banks of the Ruhr in Dortmund tomorrow – looks substantially better than any other in the Premier League.

In the course of a 15-game unbeaten Premier League start – already one better than last season's opening run – City have conceded only 11 goals: 10 fewer than United. Only Stoke City's concession of 12 is comparable.

Of course, "not bad" is no longer good enough for City fans, some of whom were unintelligent on Saturday by deriding Mancini for substituting Carlos Tevez, rather than Edin Dzeko, whose height was needed against Everton's physical presence.

Should the City manager be needing to preserve what he has against a side who, in monetary terms, have infinitesimally less than him? Probably not. But that's the consequence of having a midfield which can't deliver to the strikers.

David Silva has not been able to turn games to his purpose, as he could when David Moyes feared him so much that he designated Jack Rodwell as the Spaniard's marker at the Etihad last season. "Silva was the best player in the Premier League at that time, by a long way," the Everton manager said on Saturday night. The past tense was appropriate.

There is currently no ammunition from City's flanks either, which is also part of the story of them scoring fewer goals. Mancini's suggestion that "we are not very strong with our strikers because we need to score more goals," didn't begin to tell it.

The City manager needed a fortuitous penalty decision to allow Tevez to cancel out Marouane Fellaini's opener and Moyes' complaint that City are getting too many of those calls carries some statistical merit. The club have been awarded more penalties than any other Premier League side since the start of the 2010-11 season.

Moyes played down the prospects of a top-four finish, in the way that managers do, after Everton's seventh draw in nine games. "I think it will be hard for us over the piece," he said. "It'll be a big thing for us to be there. I think when we play over 90 minutes against someone we've got a good chance. Can we do it over 38 games…?"

But there is a balance to a side which has Fellaini and Leon Osman playing to an unprecedented level and with Phil Jagielka's performance on Saturday part of a stellar few months for him which seems to have gone unnoticed.

There were notably more Everton players to talk about than City, though that won't concern those supporters whom Mancini found it hard to please, if his players collect the honours on Sunday, at the stadium where they won 6-1 last season.

Maicon was remembering playing for a triumphant Cruzeiro, the underdogs, against Atletico Mineiro in Brazil's Belo Horizonte derby. "It changed our whole season for the better," he said. "This is something that is built into derbies – it can give the team a boost of confidence for the rest of the season." In the coming seven days, the game of fewest mistakes will do.

Match facts

Man City: HART 7/10, MAICON 5, KOMPANY 6, LESCOTT 6, KOLAROV n/a, SILVA 6, Y TOURE 5, TEVEZ 6, BARRY 7, NASRI 6, DZEKO 5

Everton: HOWARD 6, BAINES 6, JAGIELKA 8, DISTIN 6, HIBBERT 6, PIENAAR 6, GIBSON 6, OSMAN 7, NAISMITH 5, JELAVIC 6, FELLAINI 8

Goals: Man City Tevez 43 pen. Everton Fellaini 33. Subs: Man City Zabaleta 5 (Kolarov, 7), Aguero 6 (Tevez, 68), Balotelli (Dzeko, 80). Everton Oviedo (Naismith, 73), Heitinga (Jelavic, 90).

Bookings: Man City Lescott, Zabaleta. Eve Fellaini. Man of the match Fellaini. Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Man City 57%. Everton 43%.

Attempts on target: Man City 6. Everton 5.

Referee L Probert (Wiltshire). Attendance 47,386.

Champions League: Eye on the opposition

* Borussia Dortmund came from behind to hold Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich to a 1-1 draw on Saturday ahead of tomorrow's Group D visit of Manchester City. Toni Kroos' goal midway through the second-half was quickly equalised by Mario Götze. Dortmund have already won the group, with Real Madrid runners-up, while City are competing with Ajax for third position.

Suggested Topics
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015