GALAXY: It's second City, says Becks

David Beckham's loyalty to Manchester United makes it difficult for him, in a fun way, to give Manchester City too much credit. AP Photo/Bret Hartman

CARSON -- The Galaxy's second friendly in eight days against top-class European competition might come at what coach Bruce Arena calls “an awkward time,” and it might not mean a whole lot, especially surrounded by so many games that do matter.

But the opportunity to test themselves against the likes of Manchester City FC, which on Sunday visits Home Depot Center for a 1 p.m. clash with L.A., is irreplaceable. What player wouldn't want to go up against David Silva or Gareth Barry? (Or Carlos Tevez, not that's he here -- or long for Manchester, for that matter.)

Big deal, says David Beckham. Man City? Who cares.

“Just a small game,” says the Galaxy midfielder, whose identity always will be tied to his first club, Manchester United -- City's archrival. “But I am looking forward to the [Major League Soccer] All-Stars' game against the best team in Manchester and the best team in England. That's going to be a great game.”

Is it not special just to go up against one of English Premier League's present powerhouses, the reigning F.A. Cup champion?

Beckham's all smiles.

“No, because it's Man City,” he says. “At the end of the day, I'm a Man United fan.”

If you can't see Beckham's tongue firmly in cheek, look closer.

“All joking aside,” he says, “it's going to be a great occasion for the fans to see some of their great players ... great for our young players to play against a team and the players the caliber of the City players.”

That's a pretty good caliber. Silva starred for Spain's World Cup champs. Barry is an England regular. The supporting cast includes Dutch hard man Nigel de Jong, English midfielders Shaun Wright-Phillips and James Milner, Italian forward Mario Balotelli, German defender Jerome Boateng, Belgian defender Vincent Company and Bosnian forward Edin D┼żeko.

The Blues, fueled by Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan's billions, finished third in the world's most highly regarded league last season, even on points with second-place Chelsea, and qualified for this season's UEFA Champions League.

“You know what,” Beckham said, “they're bringing good players in, they've got strong people with a lot of money behind them as a club, so they're going to improve. They've got great players in the team. But they're never going to be Man United.

“I've always said that. They might be a threat against teams this season and seasons to come, but, you know, Manchester United's got the history, Manchester United's got the silverware over the last 20 years, and I'm a Man United fan, so I'm always going to say that there's only one team in Manchester.

“But Man City, I'm sure, will be a team to look at going forward.”

Roberto Mancini, the Blues' Italian manager, was asked about Beckham's comment, that Man City would never be Man United.

“I think we started to win last year,” Mancini said. “Now we want to continue to win in the future. Clearly, it's difficult to [match] Man United, because Man United won everything in the last 20 years. But we have time. We are building a good team for next season, and we want to try. In the future we can talk about this.”

How much better can Man City be this year?

“At the moment, I think it is better to wait if we can buy enough players, and after we can say what we can win this year,” said Mancini, who said he has “two or three” targets -- one of them is Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, from Atletico Madrid. “But we want to improve from last year. ... And we play Champions League for the first time, and we want to do a good job.”

Playing against a Man City is a classroom exercise for L.A.'s young players, and not just untested rookies such as Ryan Thomas, Dustin McCarty and Hector Jimenez, who are expected to play. Most of the regulars benefit from the competition, too.

Landon Donovan and David Beckham have stood next to great players before and have competed against them. Our young ones haven't,” Arena said. “And when our young players are on the field and see them up close, or even from the bench, and see their physical qualities, their speed of play, it's a learning experience that's hard to duplicate.”

Man City has played two World Football Challenge matches, toppling Mexico's America in San Francisco and the Vancouver Whitecaps on a poor field in British Columbia.

“I know Man City will be pretty eager to play because they had a little bit of a fiasco in Vancouver with the field conditions,” Arena said. “That means they're going to have their players ready to get 90 minutes on a field that's pretty good, and they're going to be able to show what they can do, and I think, unfortunately, we're going to be the recipient of facing a team that's going to be ready to play and motivated to play.”

BETTER ODDS: Arena said Thursday that “if we play Real Madrid 10 times, they'd probably beat us 11.” How about Manchester City, he was asked Saturday.

“I would think the odds are a little bit more favorable for us. But not a whole lot more,” he said. “Just basing that on they have a little bit of an edge on talent, Madrid to Man City. Not a whole lot, but they have an advantage.”

BRAZILIAN LOANER: Brazilian defender/midfielder Paulinho Le Petit has joined the Galaxy on a short-term loan from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, who play in the second-tier North American Soccer League. Arena said Le Petit, 21, will play against Man City and train next week with L.A., but the length of the loan is “immaterial. It can be extended, it can be dropped. We're just going to look at him and see if he's a player who can fit in here.”

WORTH NOTING: Donovan was missing from Saturday morning's training session at Home Depot Center. He has been nursing an ankle injury. ... Defender Omar Gonzalez was in full action while wearing a mask to protect his fractured nose. He declined interview requests after practice. ... Man City played a closed-door game Saturday morning against the Ventura County Fusion at Loyola Marymount. The Blues won, 2-0. ... Arena, on whether he enjoys the friendlies: “I love any game that I can either watch or coach in that we don't have to win. And I don't get that many of them in my life, so I enjoy that.”