By IAN LADYMAN
On Sunday at Villa Park, City face Chelsea in the Community Shield. Chelsea have bought four players since winning the FA Cup and Champions League last season. Since they became Barclays Premier League winners, City haven’t bought anyone.
Mancini has occasionally endeavoured to disguise his frustration and his irritation. At other times, he hasn’t. All that is important — all that is relevant — is that City’s defence of their title is about to begin with this as its theme.
Asked yesterday about City’s progress in the transfer market, Mancini said: ‘I know that for you these questions are more important than the match but for this you should talk to Brian Marwood, not with me. I don’t want to talk about the market. Talk with Marwood please.
‘My talk today is for the game against Chelsea. That is more important. I’m not sporting director, I can’t say anything regarding players.’
Listening to MancinI, his frustration was evident. By not saying much, he in effect said everything.
Privately he feels Marwood — the club’s football administrator — has been too slow to seal a deal for Arsenal’s Robin van Persie, his No 1 summer target, thus letting neighbours Manchester United edge them out of the race.
It’s unfair to blame one man, of course, or indeed to take sides. Marwood acts, after all, on the say-so of his chairman in Abu Dhabi, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, and also has the ramifications of UEFA’s financial fair play rules to consider.
Nevertheless, when he was asked yesterday if he was happy with Marwood’s role, Mancini was categorical. ‘I’m not happy but I won’t say anything at the moment,’ he said. Behind the scenes at the Etihad there is irritation at Mancini’s persistent sparring. For his part, Marwood has — perhaps wisely — said nothing.
On the field, meanwhile, it remains to be seen if the Italian’s suggestion yesterday that Manchester United will start the season as favourites — the bookies prefer City — is justified.
‘I think United start as favourites this year,’ he said. ‘We are maybe second, third or fourth.
‘I’m confident with my players. We won the last championship because we deserved to win.
‘In my opinion we have a good team but we built this team two years ago.
‘I think that it is impossible that two years ago you did everything perfect. You still need to improve.
‘For example, I think that Chelsea needed new players because they lost Didier Drogba.
‘Probably they needed to buy new players but also because every team, every year can bring in one or two, three players, young players.
‘When you win it is important to bring in new players, young good players for the future. This is a good way to do it.
‘I think you should buy players not 10 days before the end of the transfer window but two months before the end because the championship finished in May and you need to buy players at that time
“Now is difficult because the other teams that want to sell their players have no time to bring in other players and that makes it very difficult.’
City are no longer involved in negotiations for Van Persie, even if the door is never completely closed when you are the richest club in the world. ‘Van Persie is not our player,’ said Mancini. ‘He is an Arsenal or United player.’
As regards Liverpool’s Daniel Agger, Roma’s Daniele De Rossi and Swansea’s Scott Sinclair, negotiations have not progressed.
Something will move, of course. It has to. Chelsea, though, will perhaps start favourites tomorrow, if only because they have enjoyed a more settled build-up to the game.
For the London club this could be a pivotal season. Last year’s Champions League success will mean nothing this season if they cannot make progress in the Premier League while, as unfortunate as it is to suggest, Di Matteo may look rather vulnerable if his team do not hit the ground running.
The Chelsea manager will perhaps be glad once the season starts. At City, meanwhile, relief will come only when the transfer window closes.