Gareth Barry to be Manchester City hero rather than villain
Roberto Mancini accepts Manchester City's meeting with Aston Villa tonight holds special significance for Gareth Barry, but he wants it to be memorable for a different reason.
After 10 years' service at Villa Park, Barry moved at the start of last season, believing the Blues had more chance of breaking the top-four cartel than the midlands outfit.
The 29-year-old has been proved correct too.
As Villa languish in the wrong half of the table under Gerard Houllier, City are motoring along in third spot, a position they consolidated on Sunday thanks to an impressive win at Newcastle that Barry set in motion with his first-minute opener.
It is justification for Barry's transfer, which would be further enhanced if City can record a triumph over his former club that would take them top of the table, even if that may only be for a couple of hours.
“It will be a special game for Gareth,” said Mancini.
“I haven't spoken to him about it but probably it will be different because he played for Aston Villa for a long time. That is the nature of football.”
For Mancini, the more important factor is that his team should not falter, as they did in a similar situation against Everton last week.
If they do, it would almost certainly end their title challenge, given City will have played three extra games than United at the final whistle.
Indeed, City have lost twice at home and dropped unexpected points to Blackburn and Birmingham.
“We must do better at home,” he said.
“Last week we were disappointed because if we had beaten Everton, we would have been top on Christmas Day for the first time in 81 years.
“For that reason it was important to restart with a victory. But the season is very long and we must improve again.”
Meanwhile, Mancini is hoping reports of a potential move to Roma for goalkeeper Shay Given prove wide of the mark.
“I hope he can stay,” said the Italian.