FOOTBALL: Manchester United's £24 million move for striker Robin van Persie makes them the Premier League title favourites, City boss Roberto Mancini claimed today.
As the Citizens prepared to open the defence of their title at home to newly promoted Southampton on Sunday, the Italian revealed his belief that United move for last season's Golden Boot winner makes them the ones to watch.
Claiming he was "sure" that Alex Ferguson's men were the favourites, Mancini said: "I was serious when I said this last week because United have played for the title always, every year for 20 years.
"For this reason, I think they are favourites for the title, and now they have Van Persie - he is a really top player, the best striker last year."
Mancini, who is without Micah Richards (ankle) and Gareth Barry (abdominal problem), and will run late checks on new signing Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Joe Hart (back), added: "With Wayne Rooney, they (United) will have one of the best couple of strikers in the Premier League."
While City play tomorrow and United open their campaign at Everton on Monday, most of the other Premier League sides began their domestic campaigns on Saturday.
The pick of Sunday afternoon's matches sees last term's surprise package Newcastle host Tottenham in a contest that could prove a baptism of fire for new Spurs chief Andre Villas-Boas.
Five months after being sacked by Chelsea the Portuguese makes his return to the Premier League and may hand a start to Sandro in the Spurs midfield as wantaway playmaker Luka Modric is left out.
Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson may make their debuts but Scott Parker (Achilles) and Heurelho Gomes (ankle) are out.
Meanwhile Toon chief Alan Pardew is sweating on late fitness checks for a key quartet of players, with strikers Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba and midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa all doubts.
It's also a big day for new Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, who takes his side to West Brom.
New signing Oussama Assaidi is unlikely to figure at the Hawthorns, new signings Fabio Borini and Joe Allen could both play, while new Baggies boss Steve Clarke is waiting on the fitness of Jonas Olsson (minor knock) and James Morrison (ankle).
Finally European champions Chelsea get their season underway on Sunday with a potentially tricky match at Wigan.
Blues manager Roberto di Matteo is pondering handing Oscar his debut although fellow new boy Marko Marin remains sidelined by a hamstring injury.
Latics chief Roberto Martinez is hoping summer signing Ivan Ramis will be fit while James McCarthy (back) is also a doubt.
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