Mancini gives Bernabeu backing to United
Roberto Mancini will be cheering Manchester United to Champions League success against Real Madrid next week - but only because it will give Manchester City more chance of retaining their Barclays Premier League title.
The consolation from his own side's exit from Europe's number one club competition was that the Blues chief has always felt it could be the distraction to United that aids City's cause. And that belief was heightened when the Red Devils were paired with Real in a blockbuster last 16 tie, which will be played at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.
Mancini said: "It is normal when you play against Real Madrid in the Champions League you can lose your strength. So I support Manchester United to go through in the Champions League."
The odds remain stacked against City, who have slipped nine points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's men after drawing their last two games, against QPR and Liverpool. But Mancini is refusing to throw in the towel, given the Blues were eight points behind with only six games remaining last season and managed to turn the situation around.
Mancini said: "(Manchester United) have nine points more than us. But if we can recover eight points in six games, recovering nine in 13 games will be easy.
"I never remember the title race being finished 10 or 13 games before the end. Three years ago Chelsea were nine points behind at one point. By the time they played at Old Trafford two or three games from the end, they were only three points behind.
"In the end, if Manchester United win all their games from now to the end of the season, they deserve to win. But I am sure we have another chance."
The possible return from injury of skipper Vincent Kompany and African Nations Cup duty in the case of Yaya and Kolo Toure offers a significant selection boost ahead of Saturday evening's trip to Southampton.
Unless City complete another great escape, they will end up with only the FA Cup to play for, but Mancini believes some satisfaction can be gained from the campaign, even if City lose their title.
"It is important we are there, on the top and fighting for the title every year," he said. "If another team is better than you, you should accept it. But I don't think anyone has played better than us over the last two years."