Roberto Mancini has hit back at critics of Manchester City's transfer policy, claiming his Premier League rivals have also spent big and that City are still looking to build a squad by signing young players.
Mancini claimed Manchester City are being unfairly vilified for buying their way into the footballing elite after their £300million splurge put them on the brink of a first trophy in 35 years. City became the richest club in the world overnight when Sheik Mansour took them over two-and-a-half years ago and have since embarked on a spending spree unprecedented in the history of the game.
That investment will begin to pay off if City win next month's FA Cup final, which they reached after beating arch-rivals Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday. But it has also fostered resentment among supporters of other clubs, something manager Mancini insists is unjustified. Pointing out Chelsea and United had also paid huge transfer fees in pursuit of success, Mancini argued there was more negativity towards City's spending.
He added: "Many times I've been asked about our spending but we didn't buy Cristiano Ronaldo, (Lionel) Messi. We bought young players, good players.''
Mancini, who spent around £125million last summer alone, added: "All these players need to improve because it's the first year they're playing in the Barclays Premier League. If I'm not mistaken, many years ago when fantastic players came to England, like (Eric) Cantona, at the start it was difficult.''
Of City's starting XI on Saturday, only goalkeeper Joe Hart had been at the club for more than three years, while several had been signed in the last 15 months. But with vast sums of money at stake, Mancini has been under pressure to bring instant success to Eastlands, with Champions League football next season the minimum requirement. Mancini is adamant City will finish in the top four and reiterated his claim winning the FA Cup could inspire a Premier League title push next term.
But he added: "The manager, I think, needs time because, in one year, you can't build a strong team. It's important that you improve every week.''
City certainly did that on Saturday after their embarrassing Premier League defeat at Liverpool five days earlier. They also cleared a huge psychological hurdle, having not reached a cup final for 30 years and doing so with a victory over their fiercest rivals.
Mancini said: "Our mentality will be more strong because we beat United - and United played with their best team. (They were) without (Wayne) Rooney, but we played without (Carlos) Tevez. You can win against them only if you play very strong, you play very concentrated. If not, it's a difficult day. They win because they have more experience. But now, if we work, we can arrive very, very close to them.''
He added: "The final will be harder because probably we will go in the final and we are favourite. In 90 minutes, anything can happen. If we play with the same spirit, we can win. If not, we don't win.''
United fans have a banner at Old Trafford which is updated every year City go without winning a trophy. It recently ticked around to 35 years and Mancini said: "They can take off this banner. We hope we can take it off this year.''
Manchester City midfielder Gareth Barry says reaching the FA Cup final is "a massive moment'' for the club and hailed the "perfect" team performance.
Barry, 30, said: "It is a massive moment for the club to reach the final. It has been a long wait. So it is important now that we win it. The next game is going to be just as tough, with the pressure maybe more on us. It is about winning that first trophy. It was mentioned at the beginning of the season. If we can win that trophy, then maybe more will follow. The first one is always the most difficult one.''
Barry insists the result proves the players are united despite various training ground bust-ups.
"There were a few great individual performances but it was the perfect team performance, '' he said. "We all stuck together, as you have to do to beat Manchester United. Hopefully that will show we are together as a group. Maybe we did show United a bit too much respect initially. They played their typical way, dominated the game, but as the match went on we grew in confidence. We created a couple of chances at the end of the first half and took that momentum into the second half. As the match went on, we grew.''
Barry refused to be drawn on recent comments by Joey Barton in which the Newcastle midfielder ridiculed him as "a teacher's pet''.
He said: "You approach every game trying to do your best. I always do. If you get criticism, you get criticism. That's the game. You try and respond to it. I always give 100%. If it's good enough, you get selected again. If it's not... I don't really want to speak about another professional, positive or negative.''
United were reduced to 10 men in the 72nd minute when veteran midfielder Paul Scholes was sent off for a lunge at Pablo Zabaleta. Barry admitted the former England international's dismissal gave them a lift.
"It helped helped us massively, maybe the end of the second half would have been different otherwise, '' he said. "But we ended the game strongly and professionally. We saw it out. They had a couple of half-chances but to keep United out with a clean sheet is a great achievement. We've seen how many times over the years they've scored late on.''