So who's playing the mind games now as Manchester City and United head for Premier League title showdown?

 

Manchester City's manager, Roberto Mancini, seems to be as determined to play down the significance of Monday's derby as his opposite number at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, is to build it up as the title decider.

For both managers, it seems a calculated decision to either hype or undermine the game, knowing that City faltered in March and the start of April when the pressure for them to be champions was at its most intense. While victory would put City top on goal difference with two games of the Premier League season to go and in pole position to win a first championship since 1968, Mancini is adamant that this match has no more than its usual significance.

"The derby is always the game of the year," he said. "For the supporters, a derby is always a different game to the others. It is important for the city.

"Manchester has two top teams who are in a position to play this important game. But for us it will just be one more game, not because we fight for this or for that, and after it there are another two games, very tough games."

It will maintain a quite remarkable sequence of fixtures involving the two clubs over the past three seasons. When Michael Owen slotted home an injury-time winner for United in 2009, it was billed as the sign-off to the best derby ever. Then there was a Carling Cup semi-final that United won thanks to a Wayne Rooney goal in stoppage time.

Last season saw Rooney convert that jaw-dropping overhead kick at Old Trafford before City gained revenge by emerging triumphant in a pulsating FA Cup semi-final. Three meetings this season have been equally memorable in their own way as United came from two goals down to win the Community Shield in August and established a three-goal lead in the FA Cup before ending up holding on at the Etihad Stadium against a team that had been reduced to 10 men.

In between, there was that awesome 6-1 win for City at Old Trafford, something Mancini does not expect to be repeated in his lifetime. "The one at Old Trafford was a fantastic derby," said Mancini. "But it was a game that can happen only once every hundred years."

If Mancini's stance needed any further explanation, it came last Sunday when City did not perform at their best against Wolves in the realisation of what was at stake following United's shock 4-4 draw with Everton.

Even the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour, seems to have got in on the act with his rare public utterance that he regards this season as a success, no matter how the final three weeks work out.

"The difference is three points and we do have a chance," he said. "But whatever happens and even if we don't win 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 is happy to endorse that view. "We are happy to be where we are," he said. "We already have 10 more points than we got last year, and I am happy that we can finish the season well."

Stabilising a situation that appeared to be careering out of control as City lost at Arsenal has been a significant achievement for Mancini, who appears certain to lead the Blues into next season. But the most significant obstacle of all still lies ahead, and Mancini is determined to muster his forces.

"If Yaya Touré is on form, he is a top player," said Mancini. But we need him to be 100 per cent and on Sunday he was so-so. We also need to check on Micah Richards to see how his hamstring is. Providing he has recovered, with Mario Balotelli back from suspension, we will have everyone."

Suggested Topics
News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
Arts and Entertainment
James Dean on the set of 'Rebel without a Cause', 1955
photographyHe brought documentary photojournalism to Tinseltown, and in doing so, changed the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing