A furious Roberto Mancini admitted last night that Manchester City's chances of retaining their Premier League title were down to "10 per cent" and that they will disappear altogether if Manchester United win at home to Everton this afternoon to establish a 12-point lead at the top.
The City manager was understandably upset by his team's feeble performance in a 3-1 defeat at Southampton, claiming only two players did themselves justice.
The full-back Pablo Zabaleta was one but it was difficult for neutral observers to find a second. It was certainly not the England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who came in for criticism — not for the first time this season — after his fumble gave the home side a second goal inside 21 minutes.
"It was a really bad mistake," Mancini said. "He did two or three mistakes this year, which is not good for us."
Of the position now, City having taken only two points from their last three games, he said: "Twelve points [behind] would be too much. we are not playing well. Today was worse than poor, we did not play and I don't know why."
There was a half-hearted excuse about having had more than a dozen players away on international duty and not being able to prepare properly for the game, but there was far more to it than that.
City were poor in all departments and their only hope after Edin Dzeko cut the deficit to 2-1 was that Southampton would panic and remember that they possess the worst record in the Premier League for losing points after being in front.
Mauricio Pochettino's team had also not beaten a top ten side all season but they took renewed confidence from an embarrassing own goal by Gareth Barry and held on easily to move six points clear of the relegation zone.