Champion manager Roberto Mancini believes it will be harder for Manchester City to defend their Premier League title than it was to win it.
After signing a new five-year deal with the Blues, Mancini claimed replicating his title win would be more difficult than the club’s first league triumph for 44 years last season.
The boss also revealed the club’s future lies in youth and emphasised the importance of Carlos Tevez’s return to the Etihad following his four month self-exile.
“We did a good job for the last two years and I hope we can do a better one in the next five,” Mancini said during City’s pre-season tour in Austria.
“But we cannot rest or start thinking that because we won the title that we are the best.
“It is more difficult to win the title when you are defending champions. We start again as if from nothing; we must forget that we won the title.
“Every team will want to beat us and we must work harder than ever.
“I think there are four or five teams that can challenge but now, before the transfer window is closed, I think United and Chelsea will challenge us for the title.”
As the Blues seek back-to-back title triumphs, there has been heavy speculation about transfer targets to bolster their already expensive squad – Robin van Persie has been heavily linked with joining former teammates Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure.
But Mancini denied the links and claimed his strike force of Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko is good enough – and none of them will be leaving.
“I think such speculation is normal; we have four top strikers and all the other teams in Europe would like strikers like them,” he said.
“After January last year the problems with Carlos were finished,” insisted Mancini. “He came back to Manchester and his behaviour was good. He played a lot of games and scored important goals that helped us win the title.
“Now he has started the pre-season training very well.”
Following Euro 2012, many first-team players have been rested and given an extended summer break, allowing young stars to shine in training.
“I enjoy working with the young players very much because they are the future of the club. It is important that I work with them,” Mancini concluded.