MANCHESTER // Roberto Mancini believes the Premier League title race will be less stressful than managing Inter Milan, and feels his experience in Italy serves as excellent preparation for the final months of the season.
The Manchester City manager laughed off suggestions that he is cracking under the pressure of trying to make the club champions for the first time in 44 years. "For this reason, I don't sleep for the last three or four weeks," the Italian said with a smile.
However, Tuesday's 1-0 defeat at Everton was a fourth loss in an awkward January and cost City their three-point advantage at the Premier League summit. They now lead Manchester United only on goal difference.
Mancini believes his four years, and three league titles, at the San Siro will stand him in good stead as City look to resist the challenge by their resurgent neighbours. "There doesn't exist a place like Inter Milan where you can be really under pressure," he said.
"After Inter, you can manage every team because Inter has a big history: you have pressure every day, every minute. You need to do everything well, every game, every day. The experience with Inter Milan was really important for me."
A noted perfectionist who found fault with himself at Goodison Park, Mancini believes his side were unfortunate in all three of their Premier League defeats.
"Never did we deserve to lose the games we lost," he said.
"Because against Chelsea we played a fantastic game; against Sunderland, it was incredible because we had 80 per cent possession, we shoot 29 times against two and we concede a goal [that was] offside; and against Everton it was the same, and we beat all the top squads."
Mancini, 47, had long pinpointed January as a difficult month and the absence of the Toure brothers, at the African Cup of Nations, was compounded by injuries and the suspensions of Vincent Kompany and Mario Balotelli.
"I said in October, if we are top after January we will win the title," he said. "If we are on the top after this difficult moment, what has happened with us in January will probably happen to other teams."
However, he believes United's record of winning trophies gives them an advantage. "United are used to staying on top for 20 years, it is easy for them to stay there. For us, it is different."
Mancini has been reunited with a reminder of his success in Serie A. David Pizarro, part of Inter's midfield when they won the first of three successive Scudetti, has signed on loan. "Roberto Mancini played a big part," said the Chilean. "He has the leadership and ability to lead a group with a lot of personality."
The playmaker arrives chastened by his last battle with United. He was part of a Roma team beaten 7-1 at Old Trafford in the Champions League in 2008. "It was a massacre," he said.
His recruitment has implications for Nigel de Jong and for Owen Hargreaves, who has made only one substitute appearance in the league this season.
The England international's injury problems have been a constant and Mancini was reluctant to predict a first-team future for him. "I hope he can come back and play," he said. "Owen is a good guy."
Another United alumnus, Carlos Tevez, who is rarely thought of at City as a "good guy" in recent months, has been named in City's 25-man squad for the second half of the season.
His status, however, remains unchanged. Tevez has not played for City since refusing to warm up against Bayern Munich in a Champions League match in September, and that will not change until he apologises to City.
"Carlos knows this from four months [ago] when we spoke in my house one week after Munich," Mancini said. "Carlos is not an option at the moment, but it is possible in the future."
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