Manchester City ready for first Premier League title defense

Updated: 16 August 2012 13:59 IST

After Manchester City secured its first Premier League title in a dramatic finale last season, it was widely believed manager Robert Mancini would again spend big to usher in an era of domination in English football.

Manchester City ready for first Premier League title defense
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London:

After Manchester City secured its first Premier League title in a dramatic finale last season, it was widely believed manager Robert Mancini would again spend big to usher in an era of domination in English football.

But the lack of action speaks volumes - City has only signed midfielder Jack Rodwell from Everton during the summer.

"I relish the opportunity of playing with some of the best players in the world and continuing my development," said Rodwell. "''It will be an amazing experience to make my debut in front of them."

The offseason has mainly been used to seek stability at the club and consolidate. Mancini signed a five-year contract extension while captain and central defender Vincent Kompany has agreed to a new six-year deal.

"This Man City project was probably one of the most difficult projects in Europe to be part of, and so far we have all done a good job, even though a lot of people said it (success) wasn't going to happen so quickly," Kompany said. "I like the kind of characters that we have in our team. I like the challenges we have ahead of us. Now is the time to build the culture of winning; we are in the right time, we are in the right moment."

City has been linked with a number of players, notably Liverpool defender Daniel Agger and Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who has said he will not sign a new contract with the London club with a year left on his current deal.

Mancini said on a preseason tour of Malaysia that he is not looking to make a mass of signings in comparison to previous years.

"I don't think we need 10 new players," the Italian said. "We need to improve some positions because it is important, but it is difficult to say now how many players. It could be two, three or one that arrive here, that can help the team to improve."

Mancini is focused on performing better in the Champions League after last season's group-stage exit. With Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan having invested more than $1 billion since taking over City in 2008, a better showing is essential in club football's most prestigious competition.

"I think we need to improve for this competition," Mancini said. "To win, you should be in good form, be in a good moment. Clearly you should have a good team."

England midfielder James Milner agrees.

"Obviously we had a successful season last year, so we want to build on that," Milner said. "We want to improve in Europe as we were disappointed with our performance in the Champions League last year, so that's a massive thing for us."

City sent a clear message ahead of the season by lifting the Community Shield last weekend with a 3-2 comeback win over Chelsea.

"It is another trophy for us and we are happy," said Mancini. "I think that when you play well, when you win a trophy like this it can help us to believe more in ourselves and we can start the season very well."

Should City retain its Premier League title, the team will be hoping to do so in a more assured manner than last season.

The club went into its final match knowing that a home victory against Queens Park Rangers would be enough to hold off Man United, which had to win at Sunderland and hope City lost for it to retain the Premier League title.

United won 1-0, its match finishing before the game at City in which Mancini's side trailed 2-1 with only stoppage time remaining.

It seemed inevitable that United would win its 13th Premier League title, so much so that many fans were already celebrating in the stands.

But City striker Edin Dzeko equalized with a header before forward Sergio Aguero blasted a winner in the final minute. City had snatched the trophy out of the grasp of its illustrious neighbor to win the league on goal difference and for the first time in 44 years.

While that day will arguably never be bettered for emotion, City knows this season must act as a catalyst to win future titles. Of the 12 times United has won the Premier League, seven have come with a margin of six points or more over the team in second place.

It is that supremacy that City is striving for. Successfully defending the title wouldn't mean the end of Alex Ferguson and his United team's 20-year grip on English football, but it would send a signal that United is facing its greatest opposition yet.

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