Roberto Mancini repeated his claim that the title race is "finished" despite seeing his Manchester City team cut Manchester United's lead to two points with a Carlos Tevez-inspired hammering of Norwich.
Tevez, starting successive Barclays Premier League games for the first time in 11 months, scored a hat-trick and Sergio Aguero also netted a fine double as City moved within touching distance of the summit with a 6-1 win at Carrow Road.
Mancini took a page out of the Sir Alex Ferguson book of mind games on Wednesday night when he said it would be "impossible" to catch the club's bitter rivals, after City's win against West Brom cut the gap to five points.
That gap has now shortened even further as United do not play against Aston Villa until Sunday, but Mancini's position has not budged.
"It is impossible. The title race is finished. It is true," he said.
When asked why he thought so, now that the gap is two points, the Italian playfully retorted: "Two points? The gap is five points. I think now it's too late for us. I am happy because we started to play like we did in the first half of the season."
Tevez and Aguero combined brilliantly up front for the Lancashire club.
Former West Ham hitman Tevez blasted home from 25 yards to open the scoring before playing in Aguero with a clever backheel to make it 2-0.
Tevez added a header and coolly rounded John Ruddy to complete his hat-trick, while Aguero scored arguably the pick of the goals - a 20-yard curling shot - before Adam Johnson sealed the win in injury time.
Tevez was absent from the City team for six months after an argument with Mancini erupted when the Argentina striker refused to come off the bench in the club's Champions League game at Bayern Munich.
Mancini and Tevez have since agreed a truce and the Italian was pleased with the hat-trick scorer's efforts.
"Tevez scored three goals, and Aguero two. That is their job," he added.
Mancini hauled Tevez off within moments of his third goal, which he celebrated by mimicking a golf swing.
The action could be construed as a dig at the City boss, who criticised Tevez for playing golf during his three-month exile in Argentina, although Mancini claimed after Saturday's game that he had not seen the celebration.
Many City fans watching may have wondered where City's title challenge would be now had the former Manchester United player buried the hatchet and returned earlier to help his struggling team-mates, but Mancini said he bore no malice against the 28-year-old.
"Carlos did not play for us for six months but it is only in the last month that we have come off the top of the league," Mancini added.
"Everyone makes mistakes. It's important that when you do them you apologise.
"I am not frustrated (with him) because we lost Aguero for two games, Vincent Kompany for one match, and Joleon Lescott for four weeks too."
Tevez was a menace to Norwich throughout, working the channels and combining with Aguero well, while his finishing and opportunism was superb.
The diminutive striker did not enjoy being back in the limelight after the game, however, walking out of a post-match interview with Sky after being asked whether he dived trying to win a penalty in an incident in the first half.
Replays showed the striker was well within his rights to go down after being tripped by Ryan Bennett but Chris Foy booked him instead for simulation.