Sir Alex Ferguson last night castigated Manchester City's decision to "spend a fortune, pay stupid money, pay silly salaries," as Roberto Mancini, manager of the newly crowned Premier League Champions urged his board to avoid a repeat of the tortuous pursuit of players last summer and move rapidly into the transfer market.
Ferguson, unmoved by City's title, said he would stick by his principles of investing in young players, declaring: "We're not like other clubs who can spend fortunes on proven goods. We invest in players who will be with the club for a long time; who will create the character of the club; who will create excitement for our fans. We are very proud of that and we are going to continue that way. We're good at it. If you are good at it then stick with it." He also confirmed that Paul Scholes would be at United next year, suggesting that next season may be the last for both Scholes and Ryan Giggs.
His chief executive, David Gill, said there could be some "interesting developments" in the next few months, and Lille's £30m-rated Eden Hazard provided an intriguing hint last night that he may decide on one or other of the two clubs in the next few days. After receiving France's Player of the Year award for the second successive season, he said: "To Manchester. I can reveal that a decision will be made on my destiny within days."
As City embarked on their open-top bus parade with the trophy, Carlos Tevez stoked the fires by holding up a poster with the words "RIP Fergie". City said he had been handed the poster by a fan and issued an apology to the club and the United manager. Tevez said he meant no disrespect to Ferguson, who he "admired as a man and a manager". United said they would not be reacting to the gesture. City also said that Mario Balotelli's failure to show for a parade for the second successive season was due to his commitment to attend an Italian national squad medical at the Coverciano training base.
As Ferguson spoke of the need to evolve rather than rebuild – "we are always talking about evolving a new team because I've been here for 25 years and I have to maintain a certain standard that keeps us there all the time" – Mancini prepared for what may be another tense summer seeking to persuade his board to buy early. The pursuit of Hazard remains frustrating, despite City giving him a tour of the Manchester property market. City's top priority is Robin van Persie, with the club awaiting the outcome of his discussions with Arsenal, scheduled for Thursday.
Despite his chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, yesterday publicly alluding to the need to comply with Uefa's financial fair play regime, Mancini retains a keen interest in Edinson Cavani, the Napoli striker, as a back-up option if Van Persie cannot be secured. Cavani's agent has been quoting exorbitant figures to City for the past 18 months and the price tag being attached is still an unrealistic €40m (£31m). City's football administrator, Brian Marwood, is understood to be less enthusiastic than Mancini about Cavani, which points to the possible tensions to come with Mancini wanting outlay and Marwood tempering that at times.
Cavani's Argentine team-mate Ezequiel Levezzi, whom Mancini also admires, has a €28m buyout, though he looks more destined for Internazionale. Mancini's staff have also recently watched Athletic Bilbao's exciting defensive midfielder Javi Martinez – not a top target but a contender. The £7m-rated Montpellier midfielder, Younes Belhanda, is being monitored, as a Hazard back-up.
Some sources are beginning to sound extremely pessimistic about the prospects of the Hazard deal being done, al though City's emergence as domestic champions further strengthens the appeal of the club.
The impediment to any early signatures remains the same as that of last summer: the difficulty involved in shifting on players signed at earlier stages of the club's development, who are now a millstone. The club have had only one offer for Emmanuel Adebayor – from Tottenham Hotspur, where he was successful in the season which has just concluded, though there is some confidence that they may reach a permanent deal. The problem for Mancini is that players whom other clubs know City want to release tend to be moved on late in the window.
The picture for Nigel de Jong seems to have brightened somewhat and Mancini is understood to be relaxed about the fact that he is out of contract next summer, having earlier been willing to see him go.
Samir Nasri has thrown the doubts of Arsenal fans back at them, in the aftermath of Sunday's title win. "People at Arsenal tried to make out that I came here for the money. I hope they are watching me now, collecting my Premier League winners' medal," he said. "I believe they have not won a trophy for many years now."