LONDON Roberto Mancini's Manchester City are likely to lose their Premier League title to Manchester United but the feisty Italian manager is going down with all guns blazing ahead of their match later on Monday.
Mancini told British newspapers that United had racked up a 15-point lead at the top with eight matches left partly because opponents go into games against Alex Ferguson's side expecting to be beaten.
"No one plays well against United because they only play with fear. Every team that plays against United plays very soft because they think this game is difficult, that they can't beat them. It is not true," Mancini said.
"If you play strong against United, you can beat them."
The 48-year-old, whose Abu Dhabi-owned club won the English league title for the first time since 1968 last term thanks to a huge investment in players, also bemoaned a lack of quality signings this season for their probable second place finish.
City exited the Champions League at the group stage, too, with new signings such as Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair failing to inspire.
"We would probably be at the top ... probably also in a Champions League quarter-final (if we had signed better players)," the City manager said.
"We had a chance to get three or four players that would have improved our team but now it is finished with."
Robin van Persie was a City target but chose United instead when he left Arsenal in August.
The Dutchman has gone on to score 19 league goals and be the linchpin of Ferguson's side, who host City at 1900 GMT and should wrap up the title within weeks. (Writing by Mark Meadows; Editing by Ian Ransom)