Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini may be claiming that the Premier League race could be over by Sunday, but Sir Alex Ferguson is refusing to be drawn in for fear of becoming over-confident.
Mancini has conceded his team's hopes of winning the English Premier League title could be over come Sunday. Although City have topped the table for much of the season, they are now five points behind leaders and reigning champions Manchester United. And City could be eight points adrift by the time they kick-off against Arsenal on Sunday should United beat QPR earlier in the day. If that happens, and City lose to the Gunners, Mancini's men would be eight points behind their local rivals with just six games left.
Roberto Mancini. Pic/Getty Images
Asked if that would mean the effective end of the title race, and City's hopes of being crowned champions of England for the first time since 1968, Mancini told a news conference here Thursday: "If we lose against Arsenal and they beat QPR -- yes."
City have dropped points in a defeat at Swansea and draws with Stoke and Sunderland. However, their Italian manager insisted: "I think always positive, I can't think this. Against Sunderland we didn't play very well, for me we were so flat in the first half. But we shot 25 times on goal, we had 65 percent ball possession. Sunderland shot three times at goal and scored three goals (in a 3-3 draw). We did some mistakes defensively but we were unlucky."
"But now we can say nothing, we can't think about Sunderland. We should think positive for the next seven games. I think it may be more difficult but it is my opinion that this championship is not finished."
He added: "Maybe, in this moment, there is someone that maybe doesn't believe because it is difficult, but we believe always. Also we should play a derby -- the derby will be three points, and I think in six games they (United) can lose other points."
Sir Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, has warned his Manchester United players to ignore Mancini's claim.
Ferguson, asked about Mancini's comments at a press conference on Friday, refused to be drawn into more mind games with the Italian after their recent verbal sparring.
"I'm not getting into that. I don't need to get into that," Ferguson said.
"We must concentrate on the game ahead and that's Queens Park Rangers. We'll focus on that, not worry about elsewhere."
United are strong favourites to win the title for the fifth time in six seasons after hitting a fine run of form.
Ferguson's side have taken 31 points from the last 33 available since losing at Newcastle on January 4, and are considered to have an easier run-in to rivals City. But the United manager is taking nothing for granted.
"I wouldn't anticipate complacency (from my players) but I do think if you're concentration is not 100 per cent then there will be moments in games like we experienced recently against Fulham," he said.
"Four or five of our player gave the ball away in the space of about five minutes and it created a bit of nervousness.
"We survived that. I made the point that it was good for us to have that because that is an indication of how the games are going to be between now and the end of the season."
QPR, managed by former United star Mark Hughes, are fighting against relegation.
United had to wait until the final 10 minutes before scoring twice to seal victory at relegation-threatened Blackburn on Monday, and Ferguson believes his players will again have to show patience on Sunday.
He added: "It won't be easy because it's another game against a team fighting for survival. They're never easy.
"It wasn't easy on Monday and I don't mind if we have to wait until the final 10 minutes again to win on Sunday.
"QPR have beaten both Liverpool and Arsenal recently and knowing Mark, he's a fighter and his team will fight.
"As much as we're looking forward to the game, it's going to be a hard one."
Ferguson also revealed Portugal winger Nani could be involved after being sidelined for the last five games with an ankle problem.
"He's been training all week. He's such a talented player and makes the squad that bit stronger," said Ferguson.