Premier League: Mancini rues missed signings before Manchester derby

Roberto Mancini says Manchester City would still be challenging for the Premier League and Champions League titles had he been able to sign his main transfer targets last summer. "We would probably be at the top... probably also in a Champions League quarter-final," the Italian manager said. "We had a chance to get three or four players that would have improved our team but now it is finished with." Mancini also added rivals Manchester United "continued to improve their team".

All five top transfer targets identified by Mancini last summer rejected a move at Manchester City. Mancini's list is understood to include Netherlands striker Robin van Persie, who joined Premier League leaders United from Arsenal, and Belgium's Eden Hazard, who signed for Chelsea from French side Lille. In addition to those two names, Athletic Bilbao's Javi Martinez chose Bayern Munich, Daniel De Rossi stayed in Italy with Roma and City refused to spend £27m on Liverpool's Danish centre-half Daniel Agger. "We had the chance to get important players, players that this year could have been the difference in this team," added Mancini. "But it is useless to talk about this now."

City are no less than 15 points behind arch rivals United before Monday's Manchester derby at Old Trafford. With just eight games remaining, Mancini has already admitted that the title is lost and the Italian believes that, despite City securing their first title in 44 years last May, United's invincibility aura remains untouched. "No one player plays very well against United because they play with fear," he said. "Because United have an importance as a team and a club, every team that plays against United plays very softly because they think 'this game is difficult, we cannot beat them'. I don't think that other teams don't play 100% but their mentality is poor in that game because they don't think they can do anything. But that is not true if you go there and play with a good mentality. In football, you can beat every team."

"We are young as a team," Mancini continued. "We don't have the same importance as United in this moment. Maybe in 10 years we will be the same. This is history, and the history is very important. We need to improve as a team and as a club but for this we need more years, we can't do this in two years. I think in 10 years, if we improve, if we win the league every year, it will be the same for us. You can't win every year. Last year United didn't win anything, apart from the Charity Shield - but they continued to improve their team."

Monday's clash will be the first time City have been back to Old Trafford since last season's glorious 6-1 victory. Mancini is justly proud of that result, but he is not predicting a repeat on Monday. "Six-one is in history," he said. "We can talk about this for another 200 years, but it is impossible to do this another time. We know we can beat them on the day because they are not better than us. We need to go there thinking we are like them, that we are a strong team like them. But they deserve to win this title."

Here are the odds at Bet365 for the Manchester derby:

Manchester United win - 5/4
Draw - 5/2
Manchester City win - 12/5

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