Mancini content with fourth

The Blues boss has again been forced onto the defensive over his

tactics in the dismal derby draw with Manchester United on

Wednesday. Although United hardly carved out a hatful of chances,

Mancini has largely been held responsible for the tepid goalless

stalemate, and bringing what are perceived to be tactics straight

out of Serie A into the Premier League. Yet Mancini views the

outcome as a point gained rather than two lost. While most of his

critics are judging City’s performances by the money they have

spent and the sight of Chelsea disappearing over the horizon as

champions-elect, Mancini’s sights are not quite so high. Having

been set a pre-season target of securing Champions League combat

next term, the current table, which has City in fourth, four points

ahead of next best Newcastle, suits the Italian just fine. “We are

in a good position,” said Mancini. “If the Premier League finished

tomorrow I would be happy. “Our target is to get to the Champions

League. But targets can change during the season. “It is important

for us to stay at the top until January because the league can

change after that, when the Champions League starts again. Then,

maybe Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United will have their focus

on this competition.” Not that the City chief views the title as a

realistic aspiration. When he explained earlier in the season that

he though Chelsea would finish top “easily”, it was interpreted as

kidology from Mancini given his team subsequently went out and

inflicted a first defeat of the season on Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Yet, ahead of the meeting with United he claimed Manchester’s

finest were in a battle for second spot. And he is at a loss to

understand why his words are still not being taken at face value.

“When I was asked about Wayne Rooney coming to Manchester City, I

said that he would stay with United because he is an important

player. Where is he staying?” challenged Mancini. “I said Chelsea

would win the title easily. “They are a strong team. The best team

in the league. “They started the season very well. They won the

first five games. “When you start a season like that it is very

difficult for another team to get there.” It is difficult to

imagine the manager of a rival club making such a statement about

the Londoners, yet it is clearly how Mancini views the situation.

January will certainly be a key month because it is the only time

reinforcements can be acquired. The departure of chief executive

Garry Cook to Abu Dhabi this week have brought suggestions that he

is armed with Mancini’s mid-season wish-list. Not true, counters

the former Inter Milan coach, whilst at the same time accepting

further purchases could be made if existing members of his squad

decide they wish to play somewhere else, a position that could

apply to a number of people, including Roque Santa Cruz, Shay Given

and Shaun Wright-Phillips, whose father, Ian Wright, has declared

it is time for the England winger to leave City for a second time.

“I must speak with Shaun,” said Mancini. “Everyone wants to play.

This is normal. But when you stay in a top team it is not easy to

always play and I can understand his frustration.” After two tough

games already this week, Mancini intends to make a number of

changes for the visit of Birmingham to Eastlands, which will almost

certainly include a recall for England winger Adam Johnson. More

expressive tactics are envisaged than were in evidence earlier in

the week, although Mancini feels he has nothing to apologise for.

“Our supporters and journalists criticised us but we tried to win,”

he said. “We tried to win but we were not on the pitch alone. We

had opponents trying to stop us. “I didn’t think it was a boring

game. Maybe people prefer 3-3 or 4-4 but this is impossible. “We

must have a balance. You try to score but you must also defend.”