United neighbours ready to make some noise

LONDON, Aug 7, 2011 (AFP) - Sir Alex Ferguson may have famously dismissed Manchester City as 'noisy neighbours' but the veteran United manager may well find himself reaching for a pair of earplugs by the end of this season.

After ending their 36-year wait for a trophy last season with victory in the FA Cup, Manchester City and Roberto Mancini are aiming their sights higher as they prepare for an assault on the Premier League and Champions League.

AFP - Manchester City's Italian manager Roberto Mancini applauds the fans at a training session at The City of Manchester stadium on August 3, 2011.

With seemingly limitless transfer funds at his disposal, Mancini has strengthened an already powerful squad with the close season signings of Sergio Aguero, Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic, and more could follow.

Even allowing for the likely departure of Carlos Tevez, and recent grumblings from wayward striker Mario Balotelli, City appear well-placed to fulfil Mancini’s stated desire of improving on last season’s trophy haul.

"Last year I said we needed to win a trophy and qualify for the Champions League and we achieved that," Mancini said. "But this year my aim is to win two trophies."

Since assuming control at Eastlands in late 2009, Mancini has slowly taken ownership of his squad, purging several players signed by his predecessor Mark Hughes, such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Robinho.

The upshot is that City’s first team now appears to possess a greater unity of purpose than at any time since the club were bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008.

One of Mancini's most astute buys, the Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure, believes the City dressing room has been brought closer together following last term’s successful FA Cup campaign, which included a memorable defeat of United in the semi-finals.

"I think our team bond developed throughout the season and we were strong at the end," said Toure, who scored the winning goals in both the semi-final and final.

"Both of those victories were down to us being a strong team," the former Barcelona midfielder said.

Toure however believes City will have to raise their standards if they are to challenge for the Premier League while making their Champions League debut.

"The new season will be very, very hard and we need to improve because this season the club will play in the Champions League," he said.

"We expect to stay in the top four of the Premier League and we expect to win the Premier League because now we are coming with more confidence, the players know each other better. I think this year will be fantastic for us."

City’s sense of purpose is also matched by their plans for the club beyond the first team.

A lucrative 10-year deal with Etihad Airlines, valued at 400 million pounds, will help fund the redevelopment of land around Eastlands which will eventually include a training centre directly adjacent to the ground.

Patrick Vieira, who has recently retired from playing to take up a position as football development executive, believes City’s plans augur well for the future.

"There was a time when Manchester City were calling the players to come but now we will get the time where the players call Manchester City because they will want to come and be a part of what’s happening," Vieira said.

"I wish I was 15 years old again because when I see the facilities that City are trying to put in place, it’s very exciting. This shows what City are about. There is everything for the players to improve to stay at the top and challenge any of the biggest clubs around the world."

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