Mancini in vow to stay and fight at Eastlands

Manager denies Juventus link and insists he has begun planning next season at City

Roberto Mancini has poured cold water on speculation that he is ready for a return to Italy – and insisted he has already started planning for next season with Manchester City.

The Italian was last week heavily linked with Juventus, who sacked Ciro Ferrara in January and appointed Alberto Zaccheroni as coach until the end of the season. With the Juventus post set to become vacant in the summer, Mancini appeared to indicate his desire to return to Serie A in an interview in his homeland.

Such talk was not entirely unsurprising, even though Mancini has steered City into fourth spot and, thus, pole position for the final place in next season's Champions League. However, the former Sampdoria star distanced himself from the Juve post after Saturday's 6-1 demolition of Burnley and has now emphasised his desire to remain at Eastlands.

"I did give an interview, but I never said I wanted to go to Juventus," Mancini said yesterday. "Manchester City is my club and I have a contract here for three and a half years.

"I am already planning for next season, which will start on 5 July when the players come back after the summer. For us it's more important that we finish well this season, and we must concentrate 100 per cent to get fourth place because we have six games that are very difficult.

"After that, we can think about the future – we already have some players in our minds who can be good for next season."

Meanwhile, the injury-plagued City midfielder Michael Johnson expects to be back for the start of pre-season training this summer. Big things were expected of Johnson when he broke into the City first team under Stuart Pearce in 2006.

However, the 22-year-old's progress has been badly affected by injury, starting with an abdominal problem that kept him on the sidelines for most of last season.

Without rediscovering top form, Johnson did at least force his way back into the first-team picture this term, only to suffer a major knee injury in training just before Christmas that ruled him out for the remainder of the campaign.

Johnson could be forgiven for allowing his fitness worries to get him down. Instead, the former England Under-21 star is buoyant again after receiving the green light to step up his recovery. And he is eager to be available again when City begin preparations for a campaign that could yet include Champions League football for the first time.

"No player wants to have to go through such a long recovery and it has just been bad luck that I have had two in a row early in my career," Johnson said.

"Having recovered from a serious injury before means that this time I am a little more experienced and can deal with the frustrations much better. It is just a matter of time, patience and hard work now. If everything goes to plan, I am looking at the start of next season to be hopefully joining in with training sessions again."

The midfielder Abdisalam Ibrahim has signed a new four-year contract at the club. The 18-year-old academy graduate has broken into the first team under Mancini this season, making his debut in the 4-2 win at Scunthorpe in the FA Cup fourth round in January, and more recently appearing in the Premier League against Burnley on Saturday.

"I am really happy; I am going to enjoy the moment. It is really exciting for me," said the Norwegian. "The contract gives me time to learn my trade and push my claims. I couldn't be at a better club."

Although City have millions of pounds at their disposal and have shown plenty of willingness to spend them in the transfer market, Ibrahim believes youngsters will still be given their chance under Mancini.

"The boss has been great with me and the other lads," he said. "He's a really good coach and he believes that if you are good enough, you are old enough.

"That sends a very positive message to all the young players at the club, particularly the next group of academy players coming through."

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