Season kicks off as Fergie has traditional dig at City

Mancini must make top four this time, says crafty United manager who cannot wait to lock horns again with Chelsea in today's Community Shield

Manchester's war of wills and words is under way. Sir Alex Ferguson has signalled, not unreasonably, that after a summer of spending which may top £130 million, his club's city rivals must finish the season in the top four.

"You have to put City bang in the picture," he said. "They have got to be in the top four next year; they have to be. When Chelsea made their signings the impact they had was to win the League. When [Roman] Abram-ovich came they won the League, and for City to spend that kind of money they have to be in the top four."

That's a story for another day – the two meet at Eastlands on 10 November – and however quickly City feel they can barge their way through and further alter the old four-team hegemony which Ferguson believes has been "squashed", it is the original big spenders, title-holders and FA Cup holders Chelsea, and the tussle with Carlo Ancelotti starting with this afternoon's Community Shield at Wembley, which absorbs him most.

"He is not such an emotional guy like a lot of Italians," Ferguson observed of Ancelotti after a first season of combat. "He doesn't get upset about the odd result against them. He is very calm."

This afternoon is the chance to offer match time for those recovering in different degrees from injury and – worse still – the World Cup, rather than strike an early psychological blow against the side Ferguson sees as title favourites. Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney will each get 45 minutes.

The pitch, which Ferguson believes contributed to the hamstring injury which put Owen out of the game for four months after the Carling Cup final, still worries him, despite the Football Association laying an Emirates-style Desso pitch which blends grass with artificial fibres to make it more hard-wearing. "Someone has said they have relaid it and put more fibre in it or whatever it is," he said. "I would have thought that when you look at your pitch, and with the problems they have had, you would look at the foundation. If they have only relaid the top then they will still have problems; the foundations are the most important thing and I don't know what the foundation is."

But nothing can take his mind too far from the positives on the day it all starts again in earnest. There have been 24 of these moments for him at United but the light never dims.

Owen's return – sooner than expected – and his excellent goal in Dublin contribute to a sense that people have forgotten his pedigree. "We are certainly not forgetting," Ferguson said. And then there is the man who wears the name Chicarito on his back, though the chances of Ferguson using that terminology about Javier Hernandez are about as remote as him stating that Roberto Mancini should be given time to bed in. Hernandez's calm finish in Dublin, virtually no drawback as he converted with his first touch – provided another thrill of anticipation.

"He is going to do all right, that boy," Ferguson said. "He has a good brain, great feet and he is quick and reminds me of [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer; he has a chance. There have not been many who play outside Mexico but that is because they are well paid.

"It is a very wealthy league. It's [also] a tough league – they get big crowds in Mexico – and [that's why] I've never had any doubts about Mexican players. They are mentally and physically tough. So he has come from a good breeding ground in terms of players who can adapt."

The surprise was the stealth with which United went about that piece of pre-World Cup business. "We just did remarkably well that no one found out about it," Ferguson agreed. "That was brilliant and the [Chivas] president proved to be a man of real substance. We asked them to keep it quiet and they kept it quiet. Nobody knew; not a soul, we had a lawyer and chief scout down there for three weeks to get the deal done and that was the right thing to do."

After a desperately poor World Cup as the United manager sees it – "I don't see it as a glamour tournament any longer because there is too much expectation and hype about it," he said – he is also surveying the threats ahead, Everton being a name he keeps conjuring with, his judgement influenced by dint of Mikel Arteta, Tim Cahill and Phil Jagielka being available this season when they missed large tracts of the last one.

Plus Mancini's City, of course. So no niggling sense, then, that this could be a time in his life to travel and read? "There'll be plenty of time for that," he declared, and bustled away across the windswept training ground.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine