Manchester City spending 'on another level' says Martin O'Neill


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The Independent Football

Sunderland boss Martin O'Neill will head into battle with Manchester City counterpart Roberto Mancini insisting he is not jealous of the Italian's mammoth spending power.

The 59-year-old Irishman will welcome Mancini to the Stadium of Light on New Year's Day hoping to put a further dent in City's Barclays Premier League title ambitions following their 0-0 Boxing Day draw at West Brom.

O'Neill, who had a brief - and largely unsuccessful, by his standards - spell as a player at Maine Road, will attempt to prepare his injury-hit side for a backlash from a club whose squad is packed with expensively-acquired, top international players.

However, he has no problem with the cash-rich pretenders to Manchester United's crown flexing their financial muscles.

He said: "It's just part of the game.

"If you drop back to Chelsea a number of years ago, Chelsea had the spending power behind them and it yielded them the Premier League, they went very, very close in the Champions League a couple of times, and it proved worthwhile.

"Also, they had a fantastic manager in Jose Mourinho at the time, and Carlo Ancelotti carried that on last season.

"But Manchester City have taken it even to another level at the moment, and really, while these are the rules applying to the game, good luck to them."

City currently head their city rivals at the top of the table, but only on goal difference with Manchester United having put together a concerted run to reel them in after their 6-1 derby humiliation at Old Trafford in October.

Asked if they are genuine title contenders this season, O'Neill said: "Of course, absolutely, and I think they have shown that.

"They are a really, really top quality side and they have got strength in depth to go with it, which is very, very important these days."

Such is the depth of Mancini's squad that Gareth Barry and James Milner, two of the mainstays of O'Neill's Aston Villa team, are not even guaranteed first-team football.

The Black Cats manager said: "It says it all."

By contrast, the squad O'Neill inherited from predecessor Steve Bruce has been severely depleted by the rigours of the holiday programme with full-back Phil Bardsley and central defender Titus Bramble not only doubts for Sunday's game with thigh and Achilles injuries respectively, but for Tuesday's trip to Wigan.

With Michael Turner also sidelined and Kieran Richardson having missed training this week through illness, Sunderland's defensive resources are desperately thin, and the likes of forgotten man Matt Kilgallon could get his chance.

O'Neill said: "There's an opportunity for some of the players now, who might get a chance to come to the fore, so that will be something I will look at.

"Maybe between now and the end of the month, these players - it might not be a big opportunity, but every moment they get on the field should be important for them."

The way in which O'Neill's understudies handle the next few games could determine what he might do during next month's transfer window, although he remains adamant a transfer kitty was not discussed during his talks with chairman Ellis Short over his appointment.

He said: "I have said here that I didn't take the job because I was promised anything in January, it wasn't the case.

"We might have to look at some situations here because of the growing injuries that we have.

"If these injuries clear up in a couple of weeks, which I am hoping they will do, that might provide a bit of solace. If they don't, then that might be something that we would have to look at."

Meanwhile, O'Neill will be making only one resolution for the New Year, and it will not be a personal one.

He said: "I have only one resolution, and that is to try to get Sunderland into a decent position in the league if we can.

"To avoid relegation is the most pressing issue for us."