Toure: Time for City toughness
Yaya Toure thinks now the going has got tough for Manchester City, the tough will get going.
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42. Yaya Toure
It has not been the greatest of seasons for the Blues so far.
A disappointing Champions League campaign ended last week with a 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 for derby duty backfired spectacularly.
In addition, Joleon Lescott's omission was mystifying, with the England defender still being overlooked after the departure of skipper Vincent Kompany, who looks set for a spell on the sidelines with a calf problem.
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 Sir 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.
"It was a fantastic game for the fans though. That is why I like the Premier League. It is the toughest league in the world."
City do need to find form fast though.
Saturday's trip to Newcastle is a tricky test, after which come a run of matches the Blues would normally expect to pocket maximum points from.
From their present position, any unexpected slip-ups would widen the gap to United to such a degree it would be difficult to claw back even after their rivals' European push starts again in mid-February.
So Mancini has to get his selections right - which surely means another spell on the sidelines for Balotelli, whose negligible impact contrasted sharply with that of Tevez, whose arrival threatened to change the game.
"Carlos was amazing when he came on," said Toure, who shrugged off his own knee injury, insisting he would be fit for the trip to St James' Park.
"(Sergio) Aguero was working hard, and the goals started coming.
"But 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."