Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, declared yesterday that it would benefit the Premier League to have a new club crowned champions and that he hoped to end a hard half-century for his club's supporters by changing the balance of power in Manchester tomorrow.
"Sometimes if there are other teams – and not the usual ones like the last 10 years – it is good for the championship," Mancini said. "[As an Italian] I understand [what this means]. We haven't won the title for 50 years and we are in a city where our cousins win every year. That is very difficult for our supporters. I hope I can change this."
City's owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan may attend what would be only his second City game at the Etihad Stadium since buying the club in September 2008, in the hope of watching the team lift the trophy for the first time since 1968. It is also expected that Garry Cook, the former chief executive dismissed in September and whose work persuaded the Abu Dhabi owners to make an investment which has totalled £983m in four years, has been invited and is expected to be present.
The supreme advantage of being the Premier League manager holding the keys to the title is that you can agree with everyone else's critique of you, as Mancini demonstrated yesterday ahead of a match which he enters with no injury concern.
The Queen's Park Rangers manager and former City manager, Mark Hughes, who by one of those football twists can ruin it for the man whom the club's owners preferred to him, has said Mancini "comes across as autocratic... it's either his way or the highway". Mancini happily accepted this. "I agree with him," he said. "He's a good manager and he knows the Premier League better than me."
Sir Alex Ferguson was not being pejorative when he described Mancini as typically Italian, though the 47-year-old accepted the title with alacrity. "I agree with him," he said. "I'm Italian and I can't change my mentality. He's Scottish. He's the best manager in the world. I agree with him. It's important that we score enough goals to win the title. That's more important.
"We have played for six months and played very well. The best football in the Premier League. But it's impossible to play well every game for one year. We had one month when we had a problem. We conceded easy goals and didn't score. That's normal. Maybe after Sunday we still won't have the title but we will have played the best football."
With only one club – Sunderland – having deprived City of tomorrow's requisite three points at home, Mancini could reflect on the prospect of "maybe a glass of wine" if his side defeat a club who will need points to survive if Bolton win at Stoke City. "The winners [of the title] always deserve to win," said Mancini. "We have played the better football, even if we don't win."
Hughes can point out that he signed Vincent Kompany, the captain who was yesterday named Barclays Player of the Season. His successor reflected: "It's not Mancini against Hughes or Hughes against Mancini, it's Manchester City versus QPR. One team plays for the title and the other plays to avoid relegation. I think Manchester City now is one of the top teams in England and Europe. After, if Manchester City can win the title for three or four years, it is possible. Now, I don't know but now it's important to win the first and the second afterwards." All Mancini is certain about is his desire to avoid Mario Balotelli's celebrations if City prevail. "If we win its better to stay far from Mario. It will be dangerous," he said.