MANCHESTER, England, March 3 – Roberto Mancini believes Manchester City are still to see the best from Mario Balotelli, despite seeing his striker go some way to answering his calls with an eye-catching performance in the 3-0 victory over Aston Villa on Wednesday in their FA Cup fifth round clash.
Arsenal, meanwhile, defeated Leyton Orient 5-0 at the Emirates stadium in London in their fifth round replay match to seal a place in the Cup quarter-finals.
The Manchester City manager questioned the Italian striker’s work-rate and demanded he do more ahead of the match.
Balotelli, who cost £24million, has been struggling with a knee problem and had threatened to earn more yellow cards than goals since his arrival from Inter Milan.
But after his fine finish took him into double figures for the season, Mancini said: "Mario played well and scored a fantastic goal against Villa.
"He’s improving all the time, but it’s hard as he has just returned from injury. But I know there’s still more to come from him."
Manchester City have been fighting on three fronts with the FA Cup joining the Europa League and the Premier League in their chase for silverware.
It’s been 25 years since their last trophy but they took a step closer to achieving that aim as goals from Yaya Toure, Balotelli and David Silva, all summer signings, saw off a weakened Aston Villa side.
Manchester City will now face Reading, the Championship side who pulled off a big upset by beating Everton.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger turned his attention back to the English Premier League title race immediately after dismissing Leyton Orient.
The Gunners were the beneficiaries of Chelsea’s win over Manchester United on Tuesday, as their game in hand and meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson’s team mean their destiny is in their own hands.
"For us, it keeps us even better in the race," Wenger said.
"I felt anyway, no matter what happened (in United‘s clash), whether it was a draw, would have been good as well. It just depends on us.
"It’s down to our results. I say that for a long time, it depends how consistent we will be with our results. That will decide the championship."
Wenger’s side face Sunderland at the weekend and warmed up for that clash by thrashing League One team Orient in the Cup, with Nicklas Bendtner scoring a hat-trick.
It went some way to getting over the disappointment of losing to Birmingham in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.
They now face title rivals United in the next round at Old Trafford.
Next week Arsenal also play the second leg of their Champions League clash against Barcelona, taking a 2-1 lead to the Nou Camp.
Orient manager Russell Slade praised Wenger for getting the best out of his players after suffering disappointment at Wembley – Marouane Chamakh and Gael Clichy were the other scorers.
"It was a hard night, we found a side in good form with a real strong focus and a spot-on attitude," Slade said.