City’s 6-1 win at Norwich, sparked by a hat-trick from one-time outcast Carlos Tevez, may have Manchester United looking anxiously behind them going into today’s Old Trafford clash with Aston Villa.
But Mancini does not accept City are right back in the frame, having been eight points off the pace at the start of the week.
“It’s finished,” he said.
When pointed out City trailed by just two points, Mancini replied: “No. Five points.”
Evidently the Italian does not expect any slip-up by United at home, but should they falter, as they did at Wigan on Wednesday, it could set up a Manchester derby to savour on 30 April.
Tevez blasted home a 20-yard swirling shot to open the scoring before he backheeled to Sergio Aguero, who made it 2-0 with a venomous volley.
Andrew Surman pulled one back just after the break to give the Canaries hope, but a Tevez second-half double, a late strike from Adam Johnson, and a majestic curler from Aguero gave City a hugely impressive win to cut United’s lead.
Tevez, who famously went AWOL in Argentina for six months after refusing to come off the bench against Bayern Munich, is now well and truly back to his best and could yet have a decisive say in this title race with his former employers.
The striker looked sharp all afternoon, dropping deep and working the channels to cause the Canaries all sorts of problems, and his finishing was quite superb.
The Argentine played a big part in City’s 4-0 annihilation of West Brom in midweek and it was clear from the start that the win had raised confidence levels.
Tevez completed his remarkable afternoon with ten minutes to go when he beat the offside trap and rounded Ruddy before mimicking a golf-swing in his celebration.
The celebration may have been a dig at Mancini, who lambasted Tevez for spending his time playing golf while in exile earlier this season.
But Mancini said afterwards he was impressed by the performance from Tevez, who was starting successive league games for the first time in 11 months.
“I think now he is better,” he said. “I think we did well this season also without Carlos for four, five months.”
Mancini was asked what City might have achieved had Tevez been available all season.
Tevez missed a large chunk of the campaign following the row which erupted in Munich, when Mancini accused him of refusing to warm up.
“I’m sure if we had Carlos with (Sergio) Aguero, Mario (Balotelli) and (Edin) Dzeko, we would have scored more goals,” Mancini said, but hinted it might not have made a difference to the title picture.
United play twice before City are next in action, and Mancini was asked whether he felt Sir Alex Ferguson’s team would drop points in those games, against Villa and Everton.
“It’s not important now,” he said. “We should continue like this. We should score, we should win if possible.”