Can City profit from United title pressure?

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There are three golden rules that any manager must adhere to in order to achieve domestic success.

Firstly, never show any weakness. Secondly, don't give your opponent any kind of encouragement by dropping points. And last, but by no means least, if you start getting involved in mind games, make sure that what you say is based on fact, leaving no room for a reaction.

Roberto Mancini and Manchester City have broken all of these rules, and with nine games of the season remaining, the momentum is now firmly back with reigning champions Manchester United, who now lead this year's Premier League title race by three points.

At home, City have emerged as a tour de force - they have won every game in the league this season, with their last defeat coming against Everton back in December 2010 - and this remains the number one reason why they cannot be ruled out of the running just yet. The clash between the two rivals at the Etihad Stadium on April 30 may prove to be decisive in the eventual destination of the 2011-12 crown.

But, in order to avoid the game becoming an irrelevance, the Citizens must improve their away form. After taking just nine points from a possible 27 in their last nine games on their travels, they do not currently look like a side capable of winning the title, having conceded a former five point advantage. And with difficult trips to Arsenal, Norwich and Newcastle still to come, City have given United plenty of reason for optimism.

When you look at the spine of Manchester City's team – Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero – you can see a star-studded line-up that stands up to anything that the Premier League has seen in seasons gone by. But what winning a league essentially boils down to is a team having the combined mental strength to realise its potential, and achieve success.

Unfortunately for City, they appear to have given Manchester United too many chances to get back into the title race this season. When Sir Alex Ferguson's men lost at home to Blackburn Rovers on New Year's Eve, Mancini's men went to Sunderland the following day and lost. Granted, they were unlucky to come away from the Stadium of Light with a defeat, but it has become an all too familiar story.

The Italian tactician also spoke of his players being tired after their recent defeat to Swansea at the Liberty Stadium - a complaint that works not only as a hindrance to City, but as a potential motivation for United during the tough end of season run-in.

There is no doubt that the experience of having been there and done it before is hugely important, and could lead to the reason why City have revealed far more weakness than their 19-time top-flight winning counterparts.

But, regardless of the Red Devils' background, the knowledge and skill garnered from former glories, pressure remains a factor that there is no getting away from. United will not have it all their own way; City must be ready to profit.

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Manchester City
Premier League
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