Man City prove Mancini wrong
Roberto Mancini handed the Premier League to Chelsea on Friday - then watched his Manchester City side reveal the blueprint on how it might be taken back.
Mancini, relaxed and even risking his improving English on a wisecrack or two, looked pretty elated for a man who had just shot a large hole in his own prediction.
If Mancini genuinely believes Chelsea will win the title "easily", he ensured City did an outstanding job of demonstrating how this season might not turn into a Stamford Bridge stroll after all.
As one leadership contest in Manchester ended in victory by a nose, Mancini had raised eyebrows by suggesting Chelsea would end up several lengths clear of their rivals.
One narrow defeat to such an expensively-reconstructed side hardly represents a savage blow to Chelsea, but the manner in which City stifled them will suggest to those with title aspirations that they are not quite the untouchables Mancini and plenty of others would have us believe.
Of course, it could all have been a bluff from Mancini, a ploy designed to release pressure on both players and his own position as they prepared to face a Chelsea side that had swatted so many opponents aside days after the Carling Cup exit at West Bromwich Albion.
He was still sticking to his story after the final whistle here, even though Chelsea failed to produce compelling evidence to support his claims.
If Mancini had been painted as downtrodden and defeatist after pouring praise on Chelsea, his team gave the lie to their manager's message in a game notable for fierce commitment and organisation as opposed to quality football.
Mancini's management is a taste that has not been acquired by all City supporters, but this was a game where his Italian roots took hold against fellow countryman Ancelotti and entwined themselves around the league leaders - never letting go all afternoon.
Mancini's management is a taste that has not been acquired by all City supporters
If you wanted the beautiful game it was a case of "look away now", but if you wanted victory built on the foundations of tactical discipline and physical power, then Eastlands was the place for you.
It was not entertaining unless your colours were of a sky blue hue, but the manner in which they met Chelsea toe-to-toe and took them on for power (no easy feat) on the way to eventual triumph brought huge satisfaction to Mancini and City's followers.
Mancini's game plan was based on the physical prowess of arch-destroyer Nigel de Jong and the huge figure of Yaya Toure, who is deployed in an advanced midfield role slightly at odds with someone who occasionally appears to be the size of a large country house.
City's defence was equally diligent and uncomplicated, the overall effect leaving Chelsea bereft of ideas long before the end, with even Didier Drogba at a loss and substituted with 15 minutes left.
Gareth Barry and James Milner played their part, but such an essentially conservative approach requires a touch of genius to win games against opponents as accomplished as Chelsea.
Carlos Tevez - the man Mancini believes can exert similar influence at City as another Argentine, Diego Maradona, did at Napoli - was the inspiration. Revelling in his role as captain, he led by example and won the game as he took possession on the halfway line and scored in the 58th minute as Chelsea's defence went into forced retreat.
It was the match in microcosm, victory sealed as Mancini probably dreamed it. Milner stole the ball off a hesitant Ramires, Toure took possession and fed Tevez. The sweeping counter attack concluded with a low finish past Petr Cech via a post.
Chelsea barely had room to breathe let alone play as aggression was the order of the day and tackles piled in. Robbed of the midfield drive of the injured Frank Lampard, Chelsea were impotent and new arrival Ramires spent large portions of the game looking like he had just seen a ghost.
Some will expect more than attrition from City in exchange for £125m worth of summer spending, but a win against Chelsea and the subsequent confidence this should bring will do for now.
If it does not exactly spark thoughts of the title itself, City have shown they can at least consider the top four as a very realistic option. But they must repeat everything they did here and more. No use beating Chelsea if slips are made of the sort that have already occurred against Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers.
And yes, for all there was to admire here in the ruthless efficiency and discipline, greater attacking variety will also be required.
For Chelsea, it was a sharp reminder after the easy romps of these early weeks. They remain the country's outstanding side, but the loss will offer encouragement to those hoping to find even the smallest chinks in their armour.
It was a game that made a nonsense of predictions about the battle for the title being over weeks before season's end and Chelsea going through the Premier League campaign unbeaten.
It will be welcomed by those who like their Premier League season laced with unpredictability. If Chelsea had treated City in the same cavalier fashion they had other opponents, the air of invincibility prematurely placed on them by some would have carried greater weight.
Chelsea have the opportunity to reassert their authority next Sunday when they play Arsenal, who also fell victim to the unpredictable when they lost to West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates.
The significance of the game will not be lost on Ancelotti and Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman, in particular, will be feeling a familiar pinch after Manuel Almunia's latest proof that he is not good enough.
So plenty will go on the line at Stamford Bridge next week.
For City, there was total satisfaction at a win that was short on style and big on substance. Mancini will now realise the Premier League race may run for longer than he thought.