Man City v Aston Villa reaction

So often embroiled in controversy - both on and off the field - since joining City from Inter Milan for ?24million last summer, Balotelli has produced two stellar performances for Mancini at a time when he has needed them the most.

With Carlos Tevez sidelined while the club deal with his alleged refusal to play against Bayern Munich, eight-goal Sergio Aguero injured and Edin Dzeko struggling to reproduce his early-season form, Mancini has needed goals.

Balotelli has delivered. He was on target in the 4-0 win at Blackburn prior to the international break, and stole the show on Saturday, kicking things off with a sumptuous overhead kick before Adam Johnson, Vincent Kompany and James Milner all chipped in.

The win took City two points clear of Manchester United ahead of next weekend's derby at Old Trafford and Mancini, who has had to deal temper tantrums and displays of arrogance from Balotelli believes his player is finally getting the message.

"I think Mario is always happy. In this moment, after he was on the bench in the last month, he maybe understood," he said.

"He played well, has scored four goals in a row and works for the team. Mario can change in a moment but I am happy because it is now 40, 50 days (when he has) played and worked well.

"He is motivated because he is playing and scoring. It is important moment for him. I think that for a player on the bench with me it is not easy to watch the game and not play in a team playing well and scoring goals."

On the sidelines with Mancini today were key playmaker David Silva, who played the last 20 minutes following his exertions with Spain, Owen Hargreaves, who made his Premier League debut for the club late on, and the unused duo of Dzeko and Samir Nasri.

Although they were all replaced by players most other managers would want, City could make a case for being under-strength today.

They started sluggishly, but were sparked into life by Balotelli's goal and dominated from then on, only conceding when Stephen Warnock snuck in to score while marker Micah Richards hobbled off the field.

"I think that we had a problem in the first 10 and 15 minutes because when all the players came back from the international break, it was difficult to start the game," Mancini added.

"After 15 minutes we played very well, Mario scored a fantastic goal and that changed the game.

"I think we have started the season very well. We know this week will be hard because we play against a strong Villa, against Villarreal which is a crucial game for us in the Champions League, and after we have the derby. I think our mind is very busy."

Villa were left to rue the end of their unbeaten start to the season.

They squandered the first two chances of the match, with Gabriel Agbonlahor failing to beat Given in a one-on-one situation before Warnock fluffed his lines on the rebound.

Manager Alex McLeish was more disappointed with his side's defending, though.

"I think it was a bad day at the office," said the Scot.

"We left two up front and had Steven Ireland to support, but if we lose goals like we did today it doesn't matter if it's Man City or an amateur team, you'll lose goals like that if you're not organised at set-pieces.

"These things shouldn't happen because we organised the players to pick up City targets, the ones we singled out for attention, and that's why I'm extremely disappointed.

"We started well, Gabby had a great chance, a great save by Joe Hart, but you need to take chances at places like this and, to lose goals the way we did was (for) comedy cuts."

Source: Team Talk