x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Mancini has a lot to ponder ahead of start of Premier League season

Sergio Aguero will not be fit enough to start against Swansea next Monday, but Manchester City manager is confident his side will improve.

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero warms up on the touchline at Wembley Stadium, but Roberto Mancini could not field him in the final minutes because he needed ‘tall players for set pieces’.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero warms up on the touchline at Wembley Stadium, but Roberto Mancini could not field him in the final minutes because he needed ‘tall players for set pieces’.

LONDON // Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, revealed Sergio Aguero will not be fit enough to start the first league game of the season, and denied the club were interested in signing Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan.

Aguero, signed from Atletico Madrid for £38 million (Dh228m), was an unused substitute in the Community Shield defeat to Manchester United yesterday and will have to settle for a place on the bench for the Premier League opener against Swansea next Monday.

"Aguero is not ready," Mancini said. "Aguero needs to train because he finished [the Copa America] three weeks ago and needs to train and recover. He doesn't need pre-season like other players."

Mancini toyed with the prospect of introducing the Argentine for the final 10 minutes yesterday, but felt "we needed tall players for set pieces".

The Italian manager is keen to add a winger and a midfielder to his squad before the transfer window closes at the end of this month, but said he would not be raiding Inter Milan, his former club, for Sneijder, the Dutch playmaker.

"It's not true about Sneijder," Mancini said. "Sneijder is an Inter player and we never speak about him. We still need to complete our team, but we have 23 days to do that. We still have the same targets we had."

Mancini fully expects the restless Carlos Tevez, who has been agitating for a move away from the Etihad Stadium all summer, to return to training today after his extended sabbatical. Of greater concern to Mancini was another underwhelming display from Mario Balotelli, who was substituted before the hour mark.

"He can play better than today," Mancini said. "It's important he works for team like the other players. But sometimes you just don't play very well."

While he works out how best to harness the considerable talents of his fellow Italian, Mancini will cast an admiring glance at the way the enigmatic Nani has flourished under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

The Portugal winger registered nine goals and 18 assists in the Premier League last season, and he announced his intention to win back his place from Antonio Valencia with two expertly taken goals at Wembley yesterday.

"Nani had a fantastic season last year," Ferguson said. "Unfortunately Valencia came in at a time when we needed freshness and he was fantastic. But Nani will start the season when you see that form."

Ferguson rejected comparisons between Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portugal forward, who United signed from Sporting for £13m in 2003 and turned into the world's most expensive player when he moved later to Real Madrid for £80m .

"He's only in Ronaldo's shadow because he's from Portugal. That's the only comparison I can see. It's just takes some longer to mature than others. Ronaldo matured immediately because he is an incredible footballer."

Ferguson revealed Darren Fletcher and Valencia are both back in training but an ankle injury sustained by Danny Welbeck may prevent the forward joining up with the England squad this morning ahead of Wednesday's friendly with Holland. Javier Hernandez, the Mexican striker, is still sidelined with concussion.

The list of absentees is cushioned by the arrival and emergence of Tom Cleverley, Ashley Young and Phil Jones.

Cleverley provided United with some attacking thrust in midfield yesterday, after replacing Michael Carrick at half time, and showed why Ferguson was so keen for the player to return from a loan spell at Wigan Athletic.

"I toyed with idea of starting him but Carrick trained and felt OK," Ferguson said. "Carrick's experience suited us better in this game but I was always going to bring Cleverley on."

Ferguson has set about reducing the average age of the squad and building another team by signing David De Gea, the goalkeeper, Jones and Young this summer. "People are saying this is not the best United squad but remember we have a lot of young players who will improve," Ferguson said.

"The addition of Jones and De Gea give us a good future while Ashley Young maybe mature at 25 but he is new to this type of challenge at United. I've also bought back Mama Diouf, Welbeck and Cleverley from loan spells and they are good players."

Mancini is impressed by the depth of United's resources.

"United is the top squad in the Premier League," Mancini said. "They are better than other teams. We need to improve, need to complete our team and find our best team."

 

kaffleck@thenational.ae


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