Can City conquer Spanish giants?

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Manchester City's Premier League win could be the start of a new era, with United left behind off-the-pitch as well as on it as their City rivals target European success.

The City of Manchester has become used to the disruption of an open top bus parade, but in years previous council officials have only been troubled by one highly successful team from Stretford.

But the team from the east side of the city, bankrolled by the riches of the Middle East, are planning on holding regular celebrations in mid-May for seasons to come.

Sergio Aguero's last-second strike sparked wild celebrations that will last for weeks, and Manchester was bathed in a sea of blue confetti instead of red for the first time for decades.

But for a Manchester City side with grand ambitions, the chase begins again next season. With United caught, beaten and overhauled, the Italian now has bigger targets on the horizon - namely Real Madrid, Barcelona, and the superhuman exploits of Ronaldo and Messi.

Neither side will contest this weekend's European showpiece in Munich, but both Spanish teams remain the benchmark for those boardrooms with high aspirations and deep pockets.

The sheer joy and raw emotion of City's open top bus parade betrayed a sense of relief as much as delight. The first title after a long drought is usually the most difficult and City will naturally look to push on, but they have a long way to go to reach the heights of the La Liga teams.

Their brief flirtation with the Champions League this season exposed a lack of experience. Although away defeats to Bayern Munich and Napoli are no disgrace, City still struggled to juggle the competing demands of a Premier League title challenge and the rigours of their maiden European adventure.

The only time Vincent Kompany and co dropped points in their opening 15 league matches was after Champions League ties. Mancini knows this and said he intends to strengthen further this summer.

"Barcelona and Real Madrid every year buy two or three players and spend a lot of money," Mancini told BBC Sport. "I think for Manchester City it will be the same. We need to improve, we need to have the strength to play Champions League and Premier League."

Real and Barca have each spent more than £100m over the past two seasons, often on high-profile international stars like David Villa, Cesc Fabregas, Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao. They will invest again as they look to re-establish Champions League supremacy while Chelsea have the funds to make waves in the transfer market.

City themselves reportedly have a net spend of £345m since Abu Dhabi United Group's [ABUG] takeover in 2008, a strategy famously dismissed as "kamikaze" by Sir Alex Ferguson.

But the United boss knows this financial power is bad news for his side. United were out-muscled by City in their pursuit of Samir Nasri and look set to miss out on Ligue 1 sensation Eden Hazard to the Blues as well.

Ferguson insists he prefers to invest in younger stars, an admirable philosophy but one which is bound to come up short against City's pursuit of the game's top, established players. It should also be pointed out that United have spent just as big in the past - Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand and Juan Sebastian Veron to name a few - and these marquee signings haven't always worked out for Ferguson.

The Old Trafford boss promises to spend wisely this summer, declaring that Mancini's men "pay stupid money and silly salaries." But "value" in the transfer market is subjective and several of City's purchases have been shrewd moves. Aguero looks a bargain now at £38m, Toure a snip at £24m, and David Silva was signed for £26m.

United may have been priced out of Aguero but their outlay since August 2010 suggests the money was there to sign a Toure or Silva, or even a Modric or Sneijder.

But even so, Ferguson said: "We are not like other clubs who can spend fortunes on proven goods. We invest in players who will be with the club for a long time, who will create the character of the club and the excitement for our fans.

"We are good at that and we are going to continue that way."

The United boss may defiantly defend his transfer policy but to continue down that path will only lead to more second-place finishes. The fact remains that Europe's top clubs still spend big money and City are not going away, in fact they are only going to get better next season.

Manchester United were the benchmark for City when ADUG took over the club. Their squad contained Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney - a trio rivalled only by Barcelona's Messi, Iniesta and Xavi.

Two of those three United players have now left, while City have invested heavily to chase down their rivals. City's net spend may be an indication of just how far behind their were in 2008, but Ferguson's side now risk being left behind.

The new goal for the blue half of Manchester is European football and they have a new benchmark in the shape of Madrid and Barcelona. With the foundations in place and the money to spend you would not bet against them reaching that target. It may not be achieved in the most tasteful fashion but it is successful nonetheless.

The chase for City begins again and it begins with another summer of frenzied transfer activity.

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European News
Dimitar Berbatov
David Silva
Manchester City
Premier League
Vincent Kompany
Sergio Aguero
UEFA Champions League
Manchester United
Rio Ferdinand
Samir Nasri

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