Mind games: Manchester City are missing United’s winning mentality, admits Pablo Zabaleta
Blues stand-in captain reveals all about his relationship with Mancini and why Balotelli's exit was inevitable
Pablo Zabaleta says Manchester City must improve their mentality and unity if they are to enjoy sustained success.
Zabaleta conceded the title after admitting a 15-point gap with nine games to go was too much to make up on the Red Devils.
Roberto Mancini's players have struggled with the burden of being champions this season and were also found wanting in Europe.
The Blues failed to make it out of the Champions League group stage and Zabaleta admitted this season has been a wake-up call for them.
"We have to grow as a group and in terms of mentality," said Zabaleta. "People often believe that it's enough to have champions to win.
"But if the big players don't form a united front, you don't go anywhere. We have to learn to be more solid. United have performed better but a 15-point gap is too much.
"The difference is that they have won even when they've played badly, while we have managed to lose even when we didn't deserve to.
"United have built a winning mentality over the last 20 years while City are at the beginning of their project."
Father figure: Zabaleta can talk to Mancini about anything
With Vincent Kompany injured, Zabaleta has captained City for the past two months and arguably been their best player this season.
Zabaleta said this season was his best for City and hailed the relationship and trust he has with Mancini for bringing out the best in him.
"I really think so [this is my best season]," said Zabaleta. "I'm playing with regularity in terms of
performances and appearances.
"In some ways Maicon's fitness problems have helped [me] as continuity is fundamental for a footballer.
"My relationship with Mancini is excellent. I've known him for three years and understood that you can talk not only about football with him, but also discuss problems about life."
Zabaleta claimed Mario Balotelli's January exit to AC Milan was inevitable and claimed the striker needed the move for the sake of his career.
Homesick: Balotelli has found comfort from his return to Italy
"I believe that his farewell was inevitable," Zabaleta told Gazzetta dello Sport. "A difficult situation was created.
"Mario is a great footballer who has to learn to manage his life better off the pitch.
"He has to be more disciplined and calm. Going back to Italy and being close to his family again is helping him."
Zabaleta recalled his own tough start in life and said the tragedy of losing his mother in childhood had made him a stronger character.
"I already made the jump from Argentina to Spain and I left home at 12 to go and play football," said Zabaleta.
"I lost my mother when I was a kid and so I soon learned how to cope on my own. I didn't have any problems integrating here."
Filed under: Euro 2012
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