Cautious Mancini still happy to play underdog

With the dust settled on a frantic midweek Manchester derby that handed the title initiative to City with just 180 minutes left of a fascinating Premier League season, the mind games remain in full swing between Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini.

A 1-0 win at home to their neighbours on Monday put the destiny of the silverware in City's hands as they seek to end a 44-year wait to be crowned champions of England.

City and United are level on 83 points with Roberto Mancini's side having a superior goal difference of eight going into games at high-flying Newcastle United on Sunday and relegation-threatened Queen Park Rangers a week later.

United welcome Swansea City to Old Trafford on Sunday before completing their campaign at Sunderland.

Mancini had barely sat down at his post-match news conference after Vincent Kompany's goal had settled a tense, attritional match, when he declared United, seeking a fifth Premier League title in six seasons, were still favourites because they had "easier" games left.

Ferguson, a past master in psychological warfare to unsettle his rivals when the pressure is ratcheted up, said City were in the driving seat but defiantly stated that "it was not over".

"They only need to win two games of football. It's not over. As long as there are games of football to play, it's not over of course," he said.

In an eerie similarity to 1968, City won that year's first division title on the final day of the season at St James' Park, beating Newcastle 4-3 and denying Matt Busby's United, who lost 2-1 at home to Sunderland.

While a victory over Newcastle would merely put the champagne on ice for City, influential Spanish playmaker David Silva said Sunday's clash was "like a final for us now".

"We knew we had to win on Monday," he said. "Mentally we were ready to win it. We did that and now we have to continue concentrating on the job," he said.

"If we end up winning the title, Monday's win could be the most important win of my club career. But we have to win the championship for that win to mean something."


Away from the title battle, the final two rounds of fixtures will also determine who can plan for Champions League football and which two sides join Wolverhampton Wanderers through the relegation trap door.

Newcastle's 2-0 win at Chelsea on Wednesday courtesy of a stunning double from Papiss Cisse and Tottenham Hotspur's 4-1 victory at Bolton Wanderers left them level on 65 points, one point behind third-placed Arsenal.

Tottenham, who are above Newcastle on goal difference, look slight favourites to finish in the top four as they face Aston Villa on Sunday before finishing the season at home to Fulham. After hosting City, Newcastle end at Everton.

Arsenal, desperate to hold on to third spot to guarantee yet another Champions League qualification, are at home to mid-table Norwich City on Saturday.

An added complication this season is that whoever finishes fourth could still be deprived a place in the Champions League final qualifying round should Chelsea, w