Yaya Toure thinks now that the going has got tough for Manchester City, the tough will get going.
It has not been the greatest of seasons for the Blues so far. A disappointing Champions League campaign ended last week with defeat to Borussia Dortmund that condemned them to the worst performance by any English club in the competition’s history.
Then, at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, City’s 37-match unbeaten home record in the Premier League was shattered by Manchester United, whose injury-time winner took them six points clear in the title race.
Questions are now being asked of Roberto Mancini, whose decision to select Mario Balotelli ahead of Carlos Tevez backfired spectacularly.
But Toure insists this is not a time for City to feel sorry for themselves.
After recovering from eight points behind with only six games left last term, the Ivorian knows the battle is far from over.
Yet he does recognise the Blues need to improve.
“This makes us more determined to win it,” he said. “We are tough men, and when things get difficult, that is when you find the tough men.
“Last year was fantastic. But we have to forget what we have done in the past. We have to realise that sometimes you have a bad time. When you are at the top, everybody wants to take you down. We have to be strong and work harder to turn this around.
“This year will be hard but we have a fantastic squad and we have the confidence to keep going until the final day.”
In a sense, City answered their critics with that thrilling second-half comeback. It is the type of obduracy that has become a hallmark of their recent domestic performances, drawing respect from Alex Ferguson, who injected his own squad with similar traits so many years ago.
Yet that just made it all the more galling when Robin van Persie drove home United’s deflected winner in stoppage time.
“It was a dagger in the heart — unbelievable,” said Toure.
“We thought we would win it at 2-2, but United have great experience. This year we have not got lucky. We have to be strong mentally, and strong in every other way as well, because the Premier League is not finished yet.”
Meanwhile, the City fan who ran on to the pitch to try to confront Rio Ferdinand after van Persie’s last-gasp winner faces a lifetime ban from the club despite his apology.
City yesterday confirmed that Matthew Stott, 21, has had his season ticket removed for the rest of the season and faces a lifetime ban if found guilty in court of a charge of pitch encroachment.
“His season card has been immediately removed for the rest of the season and he has been charged to appear at court. If he is found guilty he faces a lifetime ban,” said a City spokesman.
Stott, described by his solicitor as “not a stereotypical drunken football fan”, said in a statement he would be writing to United defender Ferdinand to apologise.
In a statement released by his solicitors, Stott, a landscape gardener, said: “I would like to apologise to all those affected by my actions yesterday, particularly Mr Ferdinand and the other players.
“I am extremely ashamed of my actions. I have let myself down, my family down, my fellow fans down and Manchester City Football Club.’’
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved