Roberto Mancini still wants more from his players despite seeing Manchester City take over at the top of the Premier League table with an emphatic 4-1 success against previously unbeaten Aston Villa at the Etihad Stadium.
With bitter rivals Manchester United held to a 1-1 draw at Liverpool earlier in the day, City knew victory would put them at the summit ahead of next weekend’s derby showdown, and they duly obliged to sweep Villa aside.
With the club again refusing to accept questions over former captain Carlos Tevez in their post-match press conference, Mancini was left to reflect on an afternoon where four different players found the net and the Argentina international was not missed.
Mario Balotelli opened the scoring with a neat overhead kick in the 28th minute, before second half goals from Adam Johnson, Vincent Kompany and James Milner put the visitors firmly in their place, with Stephen Warnock’s reply little more than a consolation.
Prior to their titanic derby tussle at Old Trafford on Sunday, there is the small matter of a UEFA Champions League clash at home to Villarreal on Tuesday night as they look to get their European campaign up and running.
Mancini said: “I think that we have started the season very well. We knew that this week would be hard because we play Villa, Villarreal and after that we have the derby, and I think our minds are very busy.
“We have played only eight games, there are still another 30. We should be happy to go to Old Trafford on the top, but we should understand that the championship will be long and this position will change every week.
“We will fight until the end for the title. We have started very well, we have won a lot of games, but we need to improve more.”
Mancini admitted he was impressed with how Balotelli has responded after having to wait for his chance to shine and accepted it can be difficult for members of his star-studded squad who are kicking their heels on the bench.
He said of the volatile former Inter Milan player: “I think that Mario is always happy. He was on the bench four or five times in the last month and maybe he understood.
“He has played well, he scored four goals in a row and he worked for the team. But Mario can change in any moment. I am happy because it is now 40 or 50 days in which he has played well.
“He is motivated because he is playing and scoring and that is important for him.
“For every player that is there on the bench with me it is not easy to watch the game. But for him it was important.”
But the Italian was less impressed with the display of winger Adam Johnson who, despite scoring one and having a hand in City’s three other goals, did not do enough to earn his manager’s praise.
He said: “His performance was so-so in the first half. When Adam is 100 per cent he is a fantastic player. He scored an important goal, but I want him to play better.”