'United are the better side as they have won everything for 10 years'

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Despite City regaining their lead at the top of the Premier League, Roberto Mancini argued that Manchester United's greater experience meant the advantage lies with Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

"I say Manchester United are the better side because they have won everything in the last 10 years," said the Manchester City manager . "But we are strong and we are confident. We knew that December and January would be difficult months for us because of injuries and suspensions and our players being away [at the African Cup of Nations]."

Nevertheless, but for a superb reaction save from Joe Hart at the death, Mancini recognised that this morning Manchester City would be leading United only on goal difference. However, he argued he had a long way to go before he would endorse him with anything like the tag of "the best goalkeeper in the world".

Yesterday evening's victory improved on an away run that had seen Manchester City pick up only five points from their previous six matches, a worse recent record than any top-flight club bar Fulham and Queen's Park Rangers.

The Aston Villa manager, Alex McLeish, had noted how Everton had stifled the City midfield during their 1-0 victory at Goodison Park last month and employed similar tactics here. He added that had Villa not conceded from a straightforward se piece, the disciplined approach would have worked and said more managers would employ such tactics against Mancini's sides as the season reached its business phase.

"Everton were the inspiration for us and we played very similarly," he said. "We don't have the players to go gung-ho against Manchester City. If you are going to get something from this side, you have to keep City at 'nil' and I don't think we had the luck that ran for Everton.

"But we both employed similar systems trying to keep the ball and we won't be the last managers to use those tactics. If you are going to get something from this City side, these are the things you have to do."

The headlines in the Midlands may have been dominated by the rout in the Black Country derby, but McLeish argued that Aston Villa were still far from safety and their battle towards 40 points will not have been helped by the loss of Richard Dunne. The central defender suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder that is expected to keep him out for at least a month.

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