Roberto Mancini says Manchester City are equal of United
As Manchester derby day dawns, manager insists the massive lead United have built up in league is not a genuine indicator of merits
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists his team will use today's derby to show they are still Manchester United's equals even though the Premier League title is destined for Old Trafford.
With United 15 points clear of second-placed City, Mancini has been forced to concede his side's reign as champions is all but over.
Yet there is still plenty to play for at Old Trafford, with United looking to move closer to confirming their title triumph and City desperate to inflict a bloody nose on their fierce rivals.
City supporters will never let United fans forget their 6-1 win at Old Trafford last season and another victory on enemy territory would at least partially ease the pain of surrendering the title and prove they can hold their own against the champions-elect.
"To win 6-1 is impossible," Mancini said. "This can happen every 100 years. But we don't deserve to stay 15 points behind United.
"They play well, they win a lot of games, the last time they lost was at Norwich [in November], so they deserve to stay on the top. But it is not a true table.
"Now we have eight games left. If we play well, we win a lot of these games, maybe we can reduce this gap.
"I don't know at this moment what my approach will be. To play there is difficult but there is not a big difference between us and them."
With the title gone, Mancini is eager to grab second place and the FA Cup, where his team face Chelsea in the semi-finals at Wembley on Sunday.
City could kick off against United just two points clear of Tottenham, while Chelsea have still not given up hopes of finishing league runners-up.
"We want to get the second place," said Mancini. "We know we have another eight games to play, against United, away against Tottenham.
"The next three weeks will be very hard because we play every three days. The next three weeks will be crucial for second place.
"We want to go there to try to win. We know it is not easy to win there but we want to play a good game.
"Because it is a derby, because we want to show we don't deserve to stay 15 points behind and also because we can reduce the gap. But the title race is finished."
Even though his side's huge lead has taken some drama out of the latest Manchester derby, United manager Alex Ferguson does not believe the clash will lack passion.
"It shouldn't be any different really. I think there will still be a great intensity about the game," he said. "It will be captivating in the sense that it will be shown all over the world.
"It's a Monday night game and the only game on. Therefore that does seep into fabric of what the game will be like.
"I think the important thing is winning the game against City. It will be a big game for them also in the sense they want to come and show some pride.
"And I can understand their motivation and we would probably have the same. We are at home, our consistency in the league is there for all to see and I expect us to perform well on Monday."
Ferguson was asked to explain why City had not provided more of a challenge this season, but the United manager preferred to focus on qualities of his own players rather than criticise Mancini's men.
"I couldn't answer that. We have focused on ourselves and you have to give the players credit because their focus and team spirit has been very good," Ferguson said.
"The concentration in every match has been good. The only thing I said at the start of the season was make sure we don't lose out on goal difference again."