Roberto Mancini conceded tonight that his Manchester City's players' attitude this season has not matched Manchester United's appetite to win the Premier League title, after the defending champions fell to their fifth league defeat of the season, 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur.
Having thrown away a lead, given to them by Samir Nasri in a first half that they dominated, Mancini said that the title race was over "three or four weeks ago", with United able to seal the league if they beat Aston Villa tonight at Old Trafford.
Asked whether City had enjoyed less good fortune than United this season, Mancini said that United deserved to win the title. "You always need a bit of luck in football, it is like life," he said. "But they did not win by luck. Yes they had a better attitude because they lost last year. They bought some new team in the summer and they scored a lot of goals.
"They conceded a lot of goals but they scored more. It is important. We probably deserve to have more points. But it would change nothing."
Manini said that he had not decided whether he would watch the United game tonight. "They are not a better team but they deserve to win this title because we lost a lot of points in games we probably didn't deserve to lose. But United won a lot of games in a row with goals and deserve to win the title."
Asked whether the title had been gifted to United, Mancini replied: "Sometimes we probably did. I think the 13- or 15-point gap is not reality for this championship."
On the immediate future, Mancini said there were no plans to discuss the season with the City hierarchy. "What should I explain? We have another five games now, we play in the FA Cup, and when I have the chance to talk with the chairman [Khaldoon al-Mubarak] I will explain. But we talk about this many times and we don't need to sit now and in two or three weeks.
"I'm not happy because I wanted to win the championship. This was our target when we started the season. I'm not happy with the season because I want always the maximum. But we have another chance to win the FA Cup and I think the FA Cup is important. And we can be in second position. If [it is] not important then every other manager should be sacked."
Luis Suarez's late equaliser for Liverpool against Chelsea made it an even better day for Villas-Boas whose side stay fifth behind Chelsea in fourth and Arsenal, two points ahead of Spurs, in third having played one game more.
Villas-Boas, who believes he will have Aaron Lennon fit for the trip to Wigan next weekend paid tribute to the second-half substitutes Tom Huddlestone, Lewis Holtby and Jermain Defoe.
He said: "The first thing to credit is the players who came on with the right spirit. Everybody wants to be involved and all of those three have recently done ever so well for the team but couldn't play from the beginning.
"I think when we managed to score the first goal that was the key point of the game. When we got it we started to gain confidence, the emotion in the stadium also helps - the fans were outstanding, even when we were suffering they kept on pushing - so the equaliser was the decisive moment of the game.
"We are in control [of their situation in the league] but the game in hand we have is against Chelsea. It's a difficult game in Stamford Bridge and this is considering that we score all the points possible before that fixture.
"I think it's going to be impossible for all the squads to gather all this amount of points. "Arsenal have the momentum at the moment, Chelsea depends on this result but two games in hand, it really depends on what happens. It's very, very difficult. They finished strong most of the season so far. It depends. But I think anything can happen between these teams."