Martin O’Neill says history could stop Roberto Mancini winning the Premier League title rather than mind games with Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Sunderland manager believes that City’s 44-year long wait to be crowned champions is the team’s biggest obstacle to actually winning the title, considering the pressure the club are under having assembled the most expensive squad in the Premier League.
“It’s nothing to do with Mancini and Ferguson, but more to do with City having not won the league since 1968,” O’Neill told reporters ahead of the match at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
“United have been there, seen it and done it with Sir Alex at the helm – and that’s a big thing. Mancini will be more concerned about player for player than mind games.
“They’re in a real fight. United won’t give up. You’d have thought this year could be City’s season, with the team they have.”
The comments from the Irishman come after the recent war of words between Sir Alex and City’s football development executive Patrick Vieira, who criticised the United manager’s decision to bring Paul Scholes out of retirement before suggesting that United benefit from ‘favourable refereeing decisions’.
O’Neill also reflected on mind games between managers in the past and the present.
“The mind games make me laugh, they really do. You can read into the mind games whatever you want. It goes way back to Kevin Keegan (and his “I’d love it…” TV outburst in 1996).
“If Newcastle had won the league that year, you could have said it was the best example of mind games you could ever come up with – but instead it worked against him. I’m not into that.
“I take on board the weight of history point more than anything else. City, if you look at the team they have, then you look at the players that don’t regularly play in the side.”
Tuesday’s FA Cup quarter-final defeat by Everton was a major disappointment for O’Neill’s side and the ex-Aston Villa boss admits he was left feeling down after the game, but still remains positive.
“I’m always crestfallen. That’s half my problem because it’s always been the case since I was a player. You start beating yourself up about something and then you find that people want to beat you up anyway,” he said.
“I’ll just go back and think about December when I came in here. I was really pleased to get the job, although I was very concerned about our position in the league. But our players have turned it around well and I can’t lose sight of that.
“We’ll come back from the Everton defeat. The players have shown they’ve got a fighting spirit and we’ll show all that and more in the last eight games.”