A striking difference: United's signing of Van Persie has changed title race, says Mancini
22:30 GMT, 31 December 2012
A meticulous forward planner, Roberto Mancini is already looking ahead to the summer.
Once this season is over, therefore, we can expect some serious interest from Manchester City in centre forwards Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani.
On Monday morning at City's windswept training ground, however, Mancini was looking backwards, as well as forwards.
The difference: Roberto Mancini rues missing out on the signing of Robin van Persie last summer
As he anticipated another close encounter with neighbours Manchester United over the remaining 19 games of the Barclays Premier League season, the City manager returned to the subject of his club's failed attempt to sign Robin van Persie from Arsenal last summer.
As news of their manager's words filtered across to the executive offices at the Etihad Stadium, eyebrows will have been raised.
There is a desire at boardroom level at City for Mancini to stop discussing the what-ifs of last summer's rather disappointing efforts in the transfer market.
Bailed out: Van Persie scored the winner against Manchester City in a thrilling derby encounter
Improvement: Sergio Aguero has scored half the amount of league goals Van Persie has this season
NASRI TO SERVE THREE-MATCH BAN
Manchester City will be without forward Samir Nasri for today's clash with Stoke at the Etihad Stadium after deciding not to appeal against his three-match ban for being sent off at Norwich on Saturday.
City boss Roberto Mancini disagreed with referee Mike Jones' decision to dismiss Nasri for an apparent butt on Sebastien Bassong in the 4-3 win, but the champions do not want to risk an FA extension to his ban.
Nevertheless, it is also hard to
disagree with Mancini's assertion that Van Persie has so far been a
significant difference between the clubs as United have opened up a
sevenpoint gap over the reigning champions.
it must be said, are short of goals. Van Persie has scored 14 times in
the league so far this season while the champions' quartet of strikers
have managed only 23 between them.
van Persie is an important player for them,' said Mancini. 'It's clear
that the difference is this. He has changed the situation.
'We wanted him in the summer because we knew he would be an important player. He is totally different from our other strikers.'
The Van Persie subject came up again after Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport ran an interview with Mancini in which he expressed his regret at not clinching the signing of the Holland forward.
At the heart of the City manager's frustration is that he feels he had a head start on United when he first made contact with the player back in March.
Van Persie has gone on record as saying that he only ever wanted to move to Old Trafford. Mancini's memory of events has always been very different.
Confident: Mancini (left) believes the title race will be close, despite United leading by seven points
He refused to elaborate on what he felt went wrong, showing some diplomacy in saying: 'I know, but I won't say'.
What is known, though, is that City and Van Persie were in constant contact throughout the European Championship and indeed right up until they made him an improved financial offer in the days before he finally plumped for United in August.
'Three or four months earlier, we were there,' said Mancini. 'But there is nothing we can do now.'
In his interview that appeared in his home country yesterday, Mancini suggested that United deserved their current lead in the table.
'Maybe it should be two points instead of seven, though,' he added. Certainly the gap between the two clubs could well narrow over the coming weeks and neither are expected to figure prominently in the transfer window.
Colossus: Yaya Toure will leave City to travel to the Africa Cup of Nations in January
Stepping up: James Milner is likely to get more game time in Toure's absence
Chipping in: Edin Dzeko has fired in eight goals this campaign, including a brace against Norwich
Mancini is an admirer of Demba Ba but would need somebody to make an offer for Mario Balotelli in order to interfere with Chelsea's interest in the Newcastle striker.
As stated, meanwhile, he will only harden his efforts to prise either Falcao from Atletico Madrid or Cavani from Napoli once he knows what is happening with Balotelli and Edin Dzeko in the summer.
For now, Mancini must hope his current squad manages to find a little extra as they look to rein in Sir Alex Ferguson's team. One of the reasons City's failure to sign Van Persie remains such a disappointment is that the majority of the players they did buy in the summer have made such modest contributions.
Now, with their midfield colossus Yaya Toure about to disappear to the Africa Cup of Nations for a month or so, City need improved performances from the likes of Javi Garcia, James Milner and Sergio Aguero – among others – if they are to produce what they need.
Back in the goals: Mancini had criticised his strikers for being 'soft'
Class act: Van Persie fired in a sumptuous finish at Old Trafford against West Brom
Mancini's mood has calmed a little since a home defeat by United – Van Persie scoring the winner – and a loss at Sunderland.
On Monday he joked about the fact the FA wish to talk to him about comments he made about the referee at Sunderland and even poked gentle fun at his rival from Old Trafford.
'I haven't had the letter from the FA yet,' he said. 'The post in this country is terrible.
'Maybe next time I should run on the pitch at half-time with my hands in the air and shout at the referee.
'This is a joke. This has been a fantastic year for us. I hope that this coming year will be the same.'