As much as people mock him over in the red side of Manchester, Roberto Mancini is either a genius at mind-games or a man well aware of reality. Perhaps a little of both.
The Manchester City manager has not often gone on record in recognising the abilities and successes of his cross-town rivals, but in a recent interview carried on the BBC was quoted as saying:
"I was serious last week when I said Manchester United were the favourites."
Now this, he has mentioned before, especially during the run-in at the end of the 2011/12 season, but never has he added:
"They have been playing for the title every year for 20-years. We can't change this situation in one year" in what is essentially an indication that whilst City fans talk of their Blue Moon rising, their manager has his own feet firmly planted on the ground.
A little dollop of fear then escapes the man's lips with "Any team that bought Van Persie would be better. I felt he was going to stay at Arsenal or sign for another team, but not us. "We already have four strikers. It was impossible for us to sign another one."
Note, nowhere does Mancini make mention of his own players! Nowhere does the man give his own championship winning team, most of whom will read the same interview online or perhaps see it on TV, a boost with comments on just how solid they already are.
This is a factor Sir Alex Ferguson at United has never neglected even when faced with opponents seemingly superior on paper.
Belief in your own players is just as important for a manager as the players' belief in their boss, something Mancini needs to learn about and use to his advantage in what will be his, and his team's most challenging season ever!
First blood to United.