Mancini is too wise for mind games, says Barry, as title race hots up
Gareth Barry admits the pressure is getting to Manchester City as the Premier League title race hots up, but warned that Roberto Mancini’s rivals are wasting their time if they try to play mind games with the Italian.
Harry Redknapp has accused City of trying to buy their way to the title ahead of third-placed Tottenham’s trip to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, while Sir Alex Ferguson – whose Manchester United side play at Arsenal later in the day – has famously provoked Kevin Keegan and Rafael Benitez into making ill-advised public outbursts down the years.
England midfielder Barry believes that Mancini, a Serie A title winner in Italy as both a player and manager, is too wise to take the bait, but accepts that the pressure has had an effect on City’s recent performances.
Back to school: Gareth Barry appeared at Moston Fields Primary School in Manchester this week to help launch the 'Strike a Balance' healthy eating campaign run by City's community scheme
After a sensational first half of the season, the Premier League leaders suffered back-to-back cup defeats at home to Manchester United and Liverpool, and then laboured to an unconvincing 1-0 win at Wigan on Monday night.
Barry said: ‘You’re just going into games knowing there’s so much at stake. This game coming up is a huge one in the title race.
‘You can probably tell from the football being played earlier on in the season that we were playing a bit more freely.
‘Now sometimes the games are more about results, about getting the three points, and the football may not be as pretty.
‘Inside the dressing-room on Monday night, the pressure was on. Everyone was waiting for us to fail.
‘There’s big pressure on us now, and it’s a vital part of the season. This period now after a little sticky patch is important.’
Pressure's on: Roberto Mancini is feeling the heat at the top if the league
Mancini has come under scrutiny recently over his criticism of Wayne Rooney and fallout with Steven Gerrard over the issue of two-footed tackles.
It has led to suggestions that the Italian is showing signs of strain, but Barry insists that his manager is well equipped to handle anything Ferguson or Redknapp can throw at him.
He added: ‘In terms of mind games, there have been opportunities where he could have had a little bite but he’s resisted it. He’s batted it off and not reacted, and that’s definitely the right thing to do.
‘The route the manager’s gone down has helped the players and not added any more pressure on us before the games.
‘He’s in charge of what you’re going to
do, so if you see him getting involved in other things away from the
pitch it’s going to make everyone unsettled. It’s vital he stays as calm
as he needs his players to.
Helping hand: Barry was promoting a 'Strike a Balance' healthy eating campaign
‘I don’t think he’s changed really. Inside he’s probably feeling the pressure a bit more if the results aren’t going right.
‘But knowing that the manager has been there before and won titles in Italy helps. He doesn’t just think about the next game, sometimes it feels as if he knows his team for the next three games. The players feel very comfortable that he knows what he’s doing.’
On Redknapp’s claims that City are only in contention because of the 450million Sheikh Mansour has spent on new players, Barry detects a mixture of kidology and envy.
‘Last weekend was set up for a few comments to be made because we were playing after Tottenham,’ he said. ‘That’s just the way it happens. There will be more of that from the other managers and I’m sure our manager will play that too.
‘Maybe there is a bit of jealousy. Every supporter in the country would like a rich owner to come in and transform their club. We won’t talk any comments to heart – we just want to win the league.
Dejected: City hit the buffers of late after a stunning start to the season
‘That first title, as Chelsea did after spending a lot of money, is vital. But, once you win three or four, that (the money issue) goes out of the window.’
When City shocked Spurs 5-1 at White Hart Lane in August, United immediately followed it up with an even more stunning 8-2 demolition of Arsenal 24 hours later.
It was an emphatic message from Old Trafford; a sign of United’s title pedigree and just how difficult they will be to dislodge as champions.
And as the two rivals head into the reverse fixtures, Barry admitted that City will always have to face questions over a lack of title-winning experience until they clinch their first one.
‘As a club, we haven’t been in this position because we haven’t done it yet, so that’s a fact,’ he said.
‘But some of the players have been there and done it before. We have to try to get over the line, and I think we have enough in the dressing-room to get the job done.’