By MARTIN BLACKBURN
ROBERTO MANCINI urged Sergio Aguero to fire Manchester City back into the title race after his dazzling show helped outclass Leeds.
The Argentinian ace was inspired by the sight of his son Benjamin as a matchday mascot, scoring twice and creating one for Carlos Tevez in the 4-0 rout.
City moved comfortably into the FA Cup quarter-finals and now return to the business of trying to slash Manchester United’s 12-point lead.
But the Etihad chief reckons there is still hope for the champions — if they can keep Aguero and Tevez in this kind of form for the remaining 12 matches.
Tevez was given time off last weekend due to family reasons, but looked hungry yesterday as City ripped into Neil Warnock’s Championship side right from the off.
And Mancini said: “I hope Sergio will be like this from now until the end.
“If our strikers continue to score from now until the end, the championship is not finished.
“Carlos is an important player for us when he is in good form. He has experience, he fights.
“He had three, four, six days away for family reasons and today he played 60 minutes. It was important he scored a goal for his confidence.
“We need our strikers to continue to score like today. If they start to score, I think we can have other chances in the Premier League.”
Aguero has also had personal issues recently with his marriage to Diego Maradona’s daughter Giannina coming to an end and his son moving back to Argentina with her.
But Benjamin was back in Manchester and it seemed to have a positive impact on the title-winning hero who took to Twitter after the game.
He said: “Did Ben ask me to score for him again…? Twice! I made good of it, especially because he’s coming to spend his 4th bday with me. Love you, son!”
City’s disastrous defeat at Southampton last weekend — which means they have taken only two points from their last three games in the league — led to more speculation about Mancini’s future.
But the majority of fans showed they still have faith in the Italian by chanting his name as City never looked back after Yaya Toure’s early goal.
He said: “Yes. I am happy for this. For us, they are really important and when we lose a game, like against Southampton, then we want to try to win because they deserve to win every game.
“This for us was only like the starter — the soup, maybe — what we call a ‘brodino’ in Italy. But it was an important win and I hope it can help us to win back the Premier League.
“It is possible we might be 15 points behind when we play Chelsea but we should be confident in ourselves, always.
“If we are 12 points behind in this moment, like we lost seven points in three games, this can happen in every game.”
City won the FA Cup in 2011 and it was the springboard for last season’s title. It now represents City’s best chance of silverware this season.
Mancini said: “If you score two goals in the first 20 minutes it is easier but you know the FA Cup is a difficult competition — look at Arsenal and Everton on Saturday.
“A lot of other teams who play in the Premier League are out of the competition. If you don’t play with concentration it’s difficult.”
The City boss had promised to wield the axe after the horror show at St Mary’s.
And he did it by making six changes — although some were forced on him.
But he was still able to pick a strong-looking side and said: “I think the FA Cup is difficult. Every team plays like it is the Champions League final. You should play 100 per cent if you want to win. If we want to win this trophy, you should play another three games.
“All the teams play serious in the FA Cup. Maybe in the Capital One Cup some teams play with different players. But in this every stadium is full.
“I have been unlucky with injuries though. Gareth Barry was out, we hope we can get Vinnie Kompany back for Chelsea, but Javi Garcia — we will see this week.”
Leeds boss Neil Warnock was fuming at the penalty decision given against defender Tom Lees for a innocuous foul on Aguero after just 14 minutes.
He said: “It’s such a soft penalty, it wouldn’t have been a foul anywhere else.
“Two down after 14 minutes and you start to think the worst but we’ve done really well.
“In a game like this where they are desperate to get a result — it’s never a pen in a million years. Big teams tend to get those decisions.
“We’ve had two good cup runs this year and we’ve got young lads in the team, Byram, Lees, I think it was a lesson for them. I was pleased we didn’t fold.
“They’re still better than us, they’ve got some world-class players but it made it easier because they could relax.