MARTIN O’Neill last night described Sunderland’s win over Manchester City as his side’s best performance of the season.
The delighted Black Cats manager also dismissed Robert Mancini’s claims that the victory was in any way lucky.
Sunderland were outstanding as Adam Johnson’s second-half goal won them three vital and unexpected points against the Premier League champions.
O’Neill found it impossible to hide his delight regarding as good a 90 minutes as he has witnessed since arriving at the club over a year ago.
The Sunderland boss said: “Considering the opposition, I would have to say that was our best performance of the season.
“We took a bit of confidence from winning at Southampton, which we took into this game.
“There were times when you have to play without the ball and there are times when you need to defend stoutly – we did both of them.
“And we were also able to carve out some good chances. I thought we played really well, and not just defensively.
“We moved the ball well and caused them plenty of problems. Stéphane Sessegnon had a great chance at 1-0, but he pulled his shot wide, and when you pass up a chance like that then you do think City will get into it.”
However, that did not happen and Sunderland thoroughly earned their points, even if City were rightly aggrieved they were not given a foul in the lead-up to the game’s only goal.
Mancini admitted that Sunderland were his “bogey team” having failed to win on Wearside as a manager.
He said: “Sunderland are very lucky against us at home.
“You can create every time 15 to 20 chances like we did this year and last year and, in the end, you lose the game.
“They are very lucky against us. They defended well. We must be stronger.”
O’Neill, unsurprisingly, did not agree with this assessment and recalled the Italian’s comments last New Year, when Sunderland won 1-0, and the other meeting from last season that ended in a 3-3 draw at the Etihad.
O’Neil said: “He said the same thing last year and again in the 3-3 draw.
“I’m genuinely not bothered about what Mancini says. I have seen it before with other managers. I thought we were terrific.
“We had the more presentable chances. I don’t think anyone would disagree with that.
“Manchester City are a terrific team. I’m told this is the first time that City haven’t won when Tevez and Aguero have started together. So it was a great effort by us.
“We had to make a change before the game because John O’Shea was ill.
“So Matt Kilgallon comes in and, while we had one or two problems at certain stages of the game, we coped with it.”
O’Neill praised the contributions of goalscoring hero Adam Johnson and James McClean.
“I thought both wingers were magnificent,” he said. “James was truly terrific today, both offensively and defensively.
“He is getting back to that sort of form after a pretty difficult time when everyone was talking about second-season syndrome. Adam is starting to show some of the form that we know he is capable of.
“He did look a bit stunned that he’d scored. I must admit that I wasn’t sure myself until I heard the roar of the crowd. Adam was in my way, so I couldn’t see.”
The Stadium of Light was a boisterous place to be yesterday as the supporters not only watched their side beat Manchester City, but also recorded their third win in four Premier League matches, which took them above Newcastle in the table.
O’Neill said: “The crowd were right with us. We took 2,000 people to Southampton three days before Christmas. That gave everyone a big lift. But to come here to the Stadium of Light with that noise, and when expectations were maybe not so high, was terrific.
“There is a long way to go yet. This gives us some points and a day or two to rest now. We have tough games against Tottenham and Liverpool; maybe this will be seen as a bonus.”