As Sir Alex Ferguson rants go, the Scot's latest Manchester City aimed jibes amount to little more than pre-season drizzle in a tea-cup more akin to storms. This wasn't Ferguson's infamous red mist descending; this was more mischief than malice. Relaxed and melancholic in the safe confines of United's Far East pre-season tour, Ferguson - facing questions on former terrier Carlos Tevez defection to City - simply did what Ferguson does best. Referring specifically to a billboard erected in the city centre, saying "Carlos Tevez, welcome to Manchester" under a sky-blue graphic, the wily veteran, with a grin on his face, snapped up the opportunity to undermine a rival opponent.
"It's City isn't it? They're a small club with a small mentality. All they can talk about is Manchester United; they can't get away from it," he scoffed. "They think taking Carlos Tevez away from Manchester United is a triumph. It is poor stuff." However, City's summer progress is more rich pickings. A raft of close season signings has elevated their attack, on paper at least, to the one of the Premier League's most potent. Ferguson smells the danger. It's a familiar reek. Threats have come and gone during his 22-year Old Trafford reign, but Ferguson's wrath has always been fired at danger, at those he believes harbour his crown. Newcastle, Leeds, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all bear the scars of his scything soliloquies.
Now it is City's turn. Sheikh Mansour's millions have turned City into a genuine force, and the Tevez raid preceded the swiping of Emmanuel Adebayor from top- four Arsenal. However, it also gave the wily United chief another chance to cajole his cross-town rivals. "At the last minute, from what I can gather, either Adebayor or his agent phoned us after they had agreed a deal with City and then did the same with Chelsea. He was desperate to get to either Chelsea or us," he added.
Mellowing in his own marvel, Ferguson primed his knock-out blow. "So I don't look upon City as my biggest challenge. Do you know what City's biggest triumph is? It's getting those players there," he said, adding: "There will be three teams to beat. Ourselves, Liverpool and Chelsea will be very close together." City, like Arsenal, have no chance. Ferguson had spoken without uttering a sound. Meanwhile, a world away in America, Jose Mourinho - that rare oddity of a successful managerial foe who remains uncommonly high in Ferguson's esteem, largely because he resonates the Scot's intrinsic wind-up vernacular - couldn't resist weighing in with his own sucker-punch.
"Adebayor up front with Carlos Tevez - unbelievable. And they have Roque Santa Cruz and Robinho too. What a strike force. That's it, City are champions for sure," grinned the Inter Milan coach. Ferguson would be proud. email@example.com