With Manchester United beginning 2013 with a seven-point lead (before yesterday’s matches) at the top of the EPL, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (right) believes United striker Robin van Persie is the key difference between the two sides from last season. He said: “I think Van Persie, for United, is an important player. It is clear he changed this situation. In this moment, the difference is this.”
Mancini has often bemoaned the output of his own strikers in recent weeks.
Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli have all struggled for goals of late — a problem highlighted in the shock Boxing Day loss at Sunderland.
‘Could’ve signed RVP’
Mancini also revealed that he was “very close” to signing Robin van Persie last summer.
The prolific Dutchman was heavily linked with the Premier League champions before opting to sign for rivals United in a reported £22million deal.
Mancini has previously admitted he was interested in signing the 29-year-old but has only now indicated how strongly City pursued him.
The Italian said: “We wanted Van Persie because we knew he could be an important player. He is totally different from our other strikers. We wanted him for the Champions League and for the Premier League. We were very close. We were sure he was for us but this did not happen and now we can do nothing. We were very close three or four months before he joined United.”
Mancini said he knew why City failed in their bid but would not give a reason.
When asked if it related to money, Mancini said: “It is not the problem.”
Mancini also insisted he retains faith in his attacking options even though he did not get the player he wanted last summer.
He said: “I am happy, very happy. Last year we were the team that scored the most goals in the Premier League. But when you can improve your team with another top player, this is important. With Van Persie we would play with three strikers sometimes.”
‘Won’t sell Balotelli’
While Mancini has admitted injuries and African Nations Cup absences may force him into the transfer market in January, he is adamant he will not be selling players.
It had widely been assumed City would need to move players on to bring in new faces.
One player linked with a possible exit is Balotelli, who has performed well below his best this season.
But Mancini feels City’s owners do not want to see the Italian leave.
“I think Mario will stay but the future depends mostly on him,” Mancini said in The Sun.