The Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan suggested last night that manager Roberto Mancini's job is secure, even if the club lose to Manchester United next Monday night in what may be the title decider.
Sheikh Mansour, whose public comments on City are extremely rare, told Abu Dhabi television yesterday, as his club found the title within their own hands after Manchester United's 4-4 draw with Everton preceded their own triumph at Wolves, that "the difference is three points and we do have a chance. But whatever happens and even if we don't win [on Monday], I am very happy and satisfied with the players, the team and the management. They have performed very well and have improved in their last few matches."
Mancini's performance this season will be subject to a post-season review by Sheikh Mansour's representative, club chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak, and after the defeat at Arsenal two weeks ago it was clear that recovery was as significant as the title. City have subsequently won three successive games, scoring 12 goals in the process.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has, meanwhile, avoided any temptation to foster tension between the two clubs ahead of the impending clash by rejecting the notion, stated in the past by his defender Patrice Evra, that United versus City is "passion versus cash". Speaking on the French radio station RMC yesterday, Ferguson said of that notion: "It's not really accurate. I do not agree with that. It is true that Manchester City have become incredibly rich. But it's not the fact that there is a new owner and new ambitions which necessarily change things. The difference is perhaps that we're trying to build with youth."
Ferguson's determination to build a new cohort of young players to bequeath to his successor has certainly become a passion for him, and he confirmed that he had attended a recent match between Lyons and Lille to watch Lille's Eden Hazard, among others. "When I came to the match, I followed Eden Hazard of course, but also other players. It's part of my job to pursue others. Hazard is a very good player. He has many qualities. He is particularly rapid in the first  yards," said Ferguson, who has told Dimitar Berbatov's agent that he is ready to jettison the Bulgarian because he wants more pace in his side.
City midfielder Yaya Touré yesterday said that his side were "surprised" to have been given a "fantastic" chance to beat United to the Premier League title, starting next Monday night, and dismissed Mancini's pretence that the trophy is out of reach by declaring that the club would win their remaining three games, with Newcastle and QPR to follow.
The Football Association is not expected to take any action against Touré over images which appeared to show him making a two-fingered gesture in the direction of Wolves fans. Though Liverpool's Luis Suarez received a one-game ban and a £20,000 fine for making a hand gesture towards Fulham fans after apparently receiving abuse during a game, the governing body is understood to be satisfied that Touré was issuing an instruction to a team-mate.
Andre Marriner, who officiated United's controversial defeat against Liverpool this season – a game overshadowed by the Evra-Suarez racism row – will referee next Monday's game. Ferguson was critical of Marriner after his side lost 2-0 to Liverpool at Anfield in September 2009, claiming the referee struggled to deal with the intimidating atmosphere.
Though Mancini maintained his pretence after the Molineux win that only United can be champions, the real picture is that his quest to depose them took on an element of revenge on the day that United dumped his side out of the FA Cup on 8 January. To the Italian's deep indignation, Ferguson accused City captain Vincent Kompany, sent off that day, of being a serially dangerous tackler.
Mancini's allusion to that match in his post-match press conference at Wolves was no coincidence. "When we played the FA Cup in January, we gave them a gift. They won. But Monday will be a different game," he said. This was an unmistakable declaration of intent.
- More about:
- P Funk