Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Robin van Persie has been the difference between his side and Manchester United this season.
Mancini said he was very close to signing the former Arsenal striker last off-season before the Dutchman decided to move to Old Trafford.
Van Persie has taken little time settling in at United, with his 14 English Premier League goals helping Sir Alex Ferguson’s side move seven points clear at the top.
Mancini said the 29-year-old was all that was separating City and United, and the Italian knew the quality van Persie possessed after considering signing him.
“At this moment in time, van Persie is an important player for United because he’s scored 13 or 14 goals,” he said.
“It’s clear he’s changed this situation and at the moment he is the difference.
“We wanted van Persie because we knew he could be an important player for us and was different to all our other strikers.
“We wanted to improve our team for the Champions League and the Premier League. We were close and we were sure he was good for us, but it didn’t happen and now we can’t do anything about it.”
Mancini is preparing to lose midfielder Yaya Toure in January, with the Ivory Coast star set to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Losing three players for the tournament throughout January is a ‘big problem’ for City, Mancini said.
“For us it’s a big problem – to lose Yaya, Kolo (Toure) and also Abdul (Razak),” Mancini said.
“He (Razak) didn’t play a lot of games but he is also important. He could have been important in January when you lose these players.
“I don’t understand why we can lose three players to the African Cup. I think we are the only club that lose three players for the African Cup.
“We don’t have a chance to play them against Watford (in the FA Cup) because they have a meeting on the fifth of January and at 12 o’clock they would leave us. This is incredible.”