Roberto Mancini wants his Manchester City side to mimic the ruthlessness of neighbours United. City's attempt to balance competing in both the Premier League and Champions League begins tomorrow with a trip to Fulham, and Mancini believes that an ability to win even without playing well – as United or Milan do – will be necessary to meet that challenge.
"I want our team to have a strong mentality like United, Milan or Barcelona," Mancini said yesterday. "All these teams have won the Champions League or the championship in their own countries. I think we need to have this mentality."
Tomorrow's game will be City's first immediately following a Champions League match. On Wednesday evening they drew 1-1 at home with Napoli and while Mancini was pleased with elements of the performance he wished they had played with the efficiency required to take all three points.
"We need to play to win always but we also need to understand that we can win not only because we always play well," he explained. "In the first half against Napoli we played fantastic football but you need to score. If you don't, it's difficult in the Champions League because every game you meet a top team and if you make a mistake it can be difficult. For me, sometimes it's better not to play very well but to score and then control the game, like United and Milan do."
Thanks to Fulham's Europa League game on Thursday, City have four days to recover after facing Napoli, but Mancini is worried about how the squad will cope when they have one day fewer. "The problem will be when we only have three days," he said. "Four days is enough time to recover but it's normal that it will be harder than last year." In early November, City play in Villarreal on a Wednesday night before travelling to Queen's Park Rangers the following Saturday.
Mario Balotelli, who was suspended on Wednesday, is yet to start a competitive match this season although Mancini insisted that he was happy with the 21-year-old striker's development. "I'm not worried about Mario," Mancini said. "In the last four weeks he didn't play but he's worked very well. I'm sure that he can have a good season. Also, we have improved the team and this can be good for Mario. I've been impressed with his attitude. I'm not sure he can change in four weeks but he's worked very well even though he hasn't played."
Mancini is confident, though, that Balotelli's versatility will ensure that he plays enough games this season. "Mario can play as a winger and maybe he can have more chance to play if we play with [Sergio] Aguero, Carlos [Tevez] or [Edin] Dzeko as two strikers. Mario will have more chance because he can play as a striker or a winger."
There may be some rotation for tomorrow afternoon's match, as Mancini tries to spread the workload to keep all his players fresh. "I think we will change some players, it's possible," he said. Midfielders Nigel de Jong (who has not started since 15 August) and James Milner are both still unavailable. Owen Hargreaves is more likely to make his City debut in the home Carling Cup game against Birmingham City on Wednesday evening, although Kolo Touré could start his first match since a drug ban. "Fulham is a difficult game," said Mancini. "We won there last season, but we played a fantastic game."