Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has ordered his players to keep calm and carry on as they close in on the Barclays Premier League title.
A 2-0 victory at Newcastle yesterday left City knowing a home win over struggling QPR on Sunday will hand them the trophy for the first time in 44 years, barring a frankly unlikely goals avalanche for rivals Manchester United at Sunderland.
The two sides are locked together on 86 points with City enjoying an advantage in goal difference of eight following United’s 2-0 home victory over Swansea, although Mancini is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
He said: “In one game, it can change. It’s in our hands and we are playing at the Etihad Stadium. But it doesn’t change anything.
“We need to keep our concentration and our good attitude like we have in the last four or five weeks.
“We can talk after Sunday, not today. It is too early.”
Yaya Toure was City’s hero on Tyneside, but he had to wait until the last 20 minutes to make his decisive intervention.
With Nigel de Jong having been brought on as a substitute to allow the Ivory Coast international to push into a more attacking role, he took full advantage to blast a 70th-minute shot past the diving Tim Krul and into the bottom corner.
Both Sergio Aguero and Toure should really have wrapped up the win, but contrived to miss with just Krul to beat, although the reprieve was only temporary and the former Barcelona man eventually made sure with a minute remaining with a close-range finish.
City have now won each of the five games they have played since a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal appeared to have opened the door for United once again, although Mancini insisted he never lost belief.
He said: “I always believed this because when you are there for 28 games, after you dominate the championship, I think you deserve another chance.
“It would be too strange not to have another chance.”
City’s latest victory dealt a blow to Newcastle’s hopes of securing Champions League qualification, although a win at Everton next weekend could still see them finish third if Arsenal and Tottenham slip up.
Alan Pardew’s players were warmly applauded as they embarked upon a lap of appreciation to thank the fans for their support through a remarkable campaign.
Pardew said: “The most important thing, I think, that they must feel deep inside them is that we have brought some respect back to this club.
“The tradition and history – unveiling Bobby Robson’s statue today – some clubs just haven’t got the fabric that we have got.
“Now we are back and competing up there, it must feel good to them and I really hope that next year, we have the same sort of season and we are competing for a Champions League position.”