MANCHESTER: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists his team have shown they are better than United and have plenty of time to make up the six-point deficit to their city rivals.
City suffered a first defeat of the season when they lost a fractious Manchester derby 3-2 at the Etihad Stadium last weekend.
Although they now trail their neighbours by six points, Mancini is taking heart from that fact that his team made up an eight-point deficit over the course of the final six matches of last season to snatch the title on goal difference.
Even though his side were beaten by Robin van Persie's late winner, Mancini believes he saw enough to believe that his team - which won the Premier League last season - is better than Alex Ferguson's side.
He has called on his players to show the same kind of attitude to the Old Trafford club.
But he believes that his team's lack of European football, coupled with United's Champions League commitments, will have an impact in the new year.
Mancini said: “I think that, it's my opinion, we showed that we are better than United.
“They have more experience than us and they don't have any problems when they are behind and they continue to work.
“We should do the same, continue to work hard and we know that it only depends on us. The season is very long and in February when the Champions League starts, everything can change.”
The City manager believes that his team face a pivotal month.
They face Newcastle on Saturday before matches against Reading, Sunderland, Norwich and Stoke over the festive period.
Even though Mancini is struggling with a host of injury problems, he feels his team have to show their credentials over the weeks ahead.
He added: “For this reason we have 23 or 24 games until the end and I don't think it's a big problem to recover six points.
“At the moment we took only one point in the last two games and we have some important players injured but we need to be strong in this moment and continue to play like we did against United.”
Gareth Barry is suspended for the trip to Newcastle, while James Milner and Jack Rodwell are also likely to miss out.
Captain Vincent Kompany limped out of the early stages of the Manchester derby with a groin problem and Mancini admits the Belgian's chances of featuring are slim.
He said: “We will try but it's difficult. I think there is a two per cent chance.”
Mancini has also confirmed that Yaya Toure will play for the Ivory Coast in the African Nations Cup in South Africa in the new year.
City had hoped that the midfielder, 29, would consider pulling out but he is set to depart in early January.
Mancini said: “This is difficult. Yaya will go to the African Cup. I think after the Watford game (on January 5).”The Italian admits he is frustrated by the stories of dressing room rows that emerged in the wake of the derby.
Mancini, who hauled Mario Balotelli off just after half-time against United, was reported to have upset senior City players with his criticism of goalkeeper Joe Hart's performance.
But he added: “After the game when you asked me if I was happy for Mario's performance I said 'no' and I talked with the players and sometimes you can have discussions.
“But I used to keep it in the dressing room not like other people that talk outside the dressing room. For me it's not like this and we know where this comes from.”