London – Defeat in a dramatic Manchester derby earlier this month means that Roberto Mancini and his players can no longer match Arsenal’s Invincibles, but it would be wrong to assume they do not feel invincible.
It has become a hallmark of Mancini’s Manchester City. There is something about the relentless way they pursue their objectives that is typical of neighbours United and that celebrated Arsenal team of 2003-04. They create the sense that a goal is inevitable.
People will always remember the late efforts from Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero that clinched the Premier League title for City on goal difference in May, but the sort of mentality Mancini demands of his players has been a work in progress for some time.
Think back to last season. The late winners against Tottenham and Chelsea; the later equaliser against Sunderland.
The trend has continued this season. Late goals in the first two games enabled City to pick up four points. Dzeko’s last-gasp winners against Fulham, West Bromwich and Tottenham could prove invaluable.
City are displaying that trademark of champions: a knack of winning without playing particularly well.
On Saturday, it was Gareth Barry’s turn to pop up in the 92nd minute and snatch a 1-0 victory over Reading.
Kolo Toure recognises the signs. The City defender was one of Arsenal’s Invincibles who went unbeaten to win the Premier League title, and he senses the same conviction within Mancini’s squad.
“We just keep believing we will score,” said Toure. “Teams coming here know we can score at any time. It was the same at Arsenal. We have the same mentality here.”
Mancini marked his third anniversary in charge of City last week by talking about his success in changing the balance of power in Manchester.
Robin van Persie’s winner in the derby was a painful reminder that United still rule in ‘Fergie time’, but City are building an impressive record in what could become known as ‘Mancini time’.
“We won the title in the last second,’ said Mancini. ‘We know we can change every game right at the end.”
It earned grudging admiration from Brian McDermott but the dejected Reading boss criticised referee Mike Dean’s decision to deny his team a second-half penalty for Karim Rekik’s off-the-ball challenge on Jay Tabb and then to allow Barry’s header to stand.
A seventh straight Premier League defeat was cruel on Reading, although Nicky Shorey’s failure to challenge Barry for a great cross from David Silva in the second of four added minutes made it difficult for Dean to award a foul.
McDermott said: “Manchester United notoriously score late goals. Manchester City scored a late goal last season which was quite important, apparently. That’s what top sides and top players do. But we didn’t deserve to lose.” – Daily Mail