at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Manchester City sense a shifting in the balance of power following Monday night's 1-0 victory over United.
“Last year we won the FA Cup and qualified for the Champions League,” City's David Silva said. “This year we are challenging for the title. Hopefully we can win the title. Then next year we can challenge for the Champions League.”
Sir Alex Ferguson is in a difficult place, though there are ways for the United boss to prevent Roberto Mancini changing the guard in the city.
Ferguson has become messianic about bequeathing his successor a new generation of players. Or a “foundation”, as he put it.
“A collection of players who stay for a long time, understand each other and are friends, because that is what times does – it builds friendships,” he said.
That all sounds rosy in theory but some potentially very fine young players are the victims of the ethos because they are being cast into the furnace too soon.
Witness Phil Jones on Monday, blasting a cross high when allotted several yards of second half space in the box.
Tom Cleverley – not even in Monday's squad – has never played more than four consecutive games, Danny Welbeck never more than three.
They need to grow and learn among seasoned players such as striker Wayne Rooney.
BE A BIG SPENDER
All of which means that Ferguson needs to spend this summer. You wondered, when Manchester was awash with blue and white scarves on the Metrolink and the school runs on Tuesday, whether there might be an immediate spending announcement.
Ferguson now needs to see the colour of the Glazers money to spend on players who can deliver the moment next season starts.
He was outbid by City last summer for Samir Nasri, Mancini's stand-out player on Monday, and could not meet Wesley Sneijder's demands.
The signing of Gylfi Sigurdsson, the Hoffenheim attacking midfielder flourishing on loan at Swansea would give another £10m bracket player.
But it is by meeting the £30m that Lille will ask for Eden Hazard that United will find a game-changer. Patrice Evra did not remove the question marks about himself on Monday.
SORT OUT MIDFIELD
“People are too obsessed with the idea of a replacement (for me),” Paul Scholes said recently.
But United are in a very difficult place with the midfield area where Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Ji-Sung Park and Scholes – combined age 136 – were eclipsed by the natural force of Yaya Toure.
Significantly, Ferguson recently acknowledged publicly that 24-year-old Anderson is yet to reach his potential, five years after United signed him.
Darren Fletcher's future is also entirely unclear, though he hopes to have recovered from a bowel condition to pay for United again.
Scholes indicated on Sunday that he wants another year but he cannot go on indefinitely.
BE MANCHESTER UNITED
This was a game and an eight-point lead that United have surrendered, not one that City have gained. City's key match-winning tactic was a very prosaic one – billeting Carlos Tevez in the six-yard box to prevent David de Gea leaving his line to meet crosses.
This strategy was repeated three times, on one of which Vincent Kompany applied the decisive header.
Losing because you got your tactics wrong is a different proposition to being outplayed. That's why the title race is most certainly not over.
Beating Norwich City, West Brom and Wolves – the opposition in City's so-called return from the dead – is one thing.
St James Park on Sunday is another.
The Glazers have found a remarkably loyal servant in Ferguson, an individual who, at every turn, has praised the independence they afford him and who has insisted that the money to spend is there if he wants it.
That United should have retained their position at the pinnacle of the English game is a testament to his own powers of management, as we head into the penultimate weekend of another campaign.
Ferguson doesn't have time to build from scratch, and if he does not make a further launch into the market for players of the same calibre as Toure, Sergio Aguero and Silva, he risks the epitaph to a golden era being that he was the manager with whom City caught up. – Belfast Telegraph