It may not have been the most emphatic of derby wins for Inter, but their triumph over Milan on Sunday night was certainly one which tasted sweeter than many victories before. Not only did it maintain the team’s 100 per cent record to start the season, but it also was a hard-fought victory against their cross-city rivals.
Despite winning their first two games, there were still a few question marks around the overall performance of the Nerazzurri against Atalanta and Carpi. Some of these problems were to be expected, as a team with seven to eight new starters will always take time to gel and understand each other.
However, victory against the Rossoneri was notable for the way the team fought for each other in the closing stages of the game in a bid to hang on to their one-goal lead. The grit and determination that Mancini had bemoaned was missing in this side, has now been in evidence more than ever before over the starting few weeks of this new campaign.
This is a team which has time and again frozen on the biggest stage, and failed to convert an opportunity into a result. Whereas, this season the two late goals against Atalanta and Carpi, as well as the gritty defensive display in the last half an hour of the Derby go to show that the team is finally on the right track.
The atmosphere at the club also seems to be different as players are now fighting till the very last minute and increasing their level of performance. Juan Jesus has transformed himself into a solid left-back, who is capable of covering for the centre-backs if needed. His last minute tackle on Luiz Adriano in the first half was vital for the Nerazzurri.
Match-winner Fredy Guarin has his fair share of critics and is still inconsistent in his displays, but the improvement from the Colombian under Mancini is unmistakeable. The former Manchester City manager has continued to show belief in the midfielder and he is being duly rewarded for his faith. Guarin was decisive against Carpi and once again he showed his worth here.
Another player who typified this new Inter by his absence was Andrea Ranocchia. Until last season, the Italian would have definitely featured in this game particularly with the injury to Miranda. However, now Mancini finally has the squad to not play under-performing players out of compulsion and a lack of choice. Gary Medel acquitted himself well enough in the centre-back role.
Inter now sit alone at the top of the table for the first time in five years, and can already boast an eight-point cushion over Juventus, seven-point gap to Napoli and a six-point advantage over Milan. Even Mancini would not have imagined such a scenario at the start of the new campaign. Better still for Nerazzurri fans, is the fact that the room for improvement in this team is still massive.
The attacking trio of Ivan Perisic, Stevan Jovetic and Mauro Icardi may not have clicked against Milan, but there were glimpses during the game of what they could conjure. And this is without considering the option of also playing Adem Ljajic in the same line-up as a Hail Mary option. Felipe Melo already proved why Mancini wanted him as badly as he did with a hard as nails display.
The future certainly looks bright for this new-look Inter side, and Mancini will now hope that they continue to excel this way at second-placed Chievo next week. If they manage to overcome the Flying Donkeys too, this season may just start to signal the start of something special for the Beneamata.