Manchester poised to become battleground for success

MANCHESTER - Manchester rivalry is poised to become a heavyweight battle for top players and silverware with the city's two clubs holding the two most prestigious English trophies.

Manchester United sealed the Premier League title on Saturday, the same day that Manchester City lifted the FA Cup with the former continuing their dominance of the past two decades and the latter breaking a 35-year trophy drought.

United know only too well that one cup can soon lead to another, having not won the league for 26 years before their first of 12 Premier League titles under Sir Alex Ferguson in the past 18 years - just the sort of "new era" City see ahead.

With vast resources, City's owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan has spent hundreds of millions of pounds building a team. With a glistening cup and the prospect of Champions League football, luring the world's best talent to the world's richest club has got even easier.

It is proof, if any was needed, that money can buy success and United are well aware that City now have the potential to follow in the footsteps of Chelsea in becoming major rivals for European and domestic titles thanks to a big bank balance.

"The great thing about us is that we accept challenges. It doesn't matter where it comes from. Our job is to get better and we will try to be better next year," Ferguson told a news conference.

United fans, planning to replace the banner they have gleefully hung at Old Trafford counting the years since City last won a trophy with a new one declaring "United by geography, separated by success," are quick to dismiss their neighbours.


When asked what they made of City's win over Stoke in the FA Cup Final, the United fans travelling back to Manchester after the 1-1 draw at Blackburn that sealed the title, chanted: "City are a joke, City are a joke, We've got Barca, they've got Stoke, City are a joke."

United play Barcelona in the Champions League Final on May 28 at Wembley and need only go back three years to remember the last time they won it was against Chelsea, three years after the London side had won their first league title in half a century after building a strong team thanks to a major cash injection.

Having secured a fourth-place Premier League finish this week, and still with a chance of finishing higher, Manchester City are planning to take Europe by storm with manager Roberto Mancini saying the club can become one of the continent's best.

His players agreed, with centre back Vincent Kompany telling the club website: "This is just the first of many trophies to come in the future. We've laid the first brick, now we can build a house."

Whether the construction work will involve a lot of new players remains to be seen but across the city, United will be dabbling in the transfer market as they have ageing players like keeper Edwin van der Sar and Paul Scholes to replace.

Newspaper reports have linked Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder with both clubs, and while neither have confirmed their interest such a rumour encapsulates the decision players might have to make when considering a move to Europe's "rain capital".

Both clubs can now offer a recent trophy, Champions League football and big ambitions. Salary considerations aside, it may simply come down to a preference for red or blue now.