ROBERTO Mancini admitted yesterday’s 5-0 victory over Sunderland could prove to be one of the more significant of Manchester City’s season.
On a weekend when near rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs all stuttered to unexpected draws, City stormed to a victory where the performance was every bit as emphatic as the scoreline.
And it will not have escaped the notice of Sir Alex Ferguson, sitting in the stands and laying his plans for Manchester United’s FA Cup semi-final with City in 12 days, that a win like this can boost confidence for weeks to come.
“Yes, I would agree that this was an important result for us,” said City boss Mancini.
“We needed to win this game because the others around us had not got a win and we can see from the table that the benefits are twofold – firstly, we’ve closed in on Arsenal above us and, secondly, we’ve put distance between Chelsea and Tottenham below us.
“So I hope that, at the end of the season, we might look back at this weekend and say it was one that made a difference for us.”
Mancini had thought he would have a bigger fight on his hands in overcoming a Sunderland side that has been in top half of the table from October to April.
But he wasn’t complaining after watching his side romp home.
“Before the game, I thought it was a difficult game because Sunderland are hard to beat,” added the Italian.
“They are a strong team with a good manager who knows his football and they work hard.
“I was surprised to win 5-0.
“But very happy with that.
“The difference for us was that we found space and time to play our football and we benefited from having a couple of players back, too.
“This will give us confidence for the games ahead, but the FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United is the same as the game against Sunderland – you can’t predict beforehand its outcome, it is just one game and anything can happen.”
The questioner who asked whether Mancini thought he could still win the Premier League title – United are 10 points clear of third-top City – brought a chuckle from the manager and a polite: “No.”
But he signalled that no-one should think that City’s season is about to peter out quietly.
“Do I think that we can maintain the form against Sunderland?” he mused. “No.”
“I think we can improve. We can play better.
“We have players returning from injury we are getting strength back in depth and we are capable of finishing this season very strongly.”