Roberto Mancini must have had very mixed feelings on Saturday afternoon as his Manchester City team bagged an impressive 6-1 victory over Norwich City, courtesy of a hat-trick from the man he said would never play for him again, Carlos Tevez.
The inevitable subject of football phone-in’s this week, and the football debates around the city, have been all about Tevez. Had he not been allowed to go on his extended golfing holiday to Argentina, would it be the Blues now, rather than the Reds, who would be sitting pretty at the top of the Premiership with a five point advantage?
It is easy in hindsight to say Mancini got it wrong regarding the Tevez affair. After all, City fans were outraged by his seeming refusal to come on as a substitute in that fateful Champions League game last year. However, Mancini is not a fan. He is paid a significant salary to not get emotionally involved in the sort of stuff that infuriates supporters, and a more experienced manager would maybe have handled things differently.
Indeed, there is no maybe about it. Last season Mancunians will remember a certain Wayne Rooney, or more accurately his agent, very publicly expressing the view that Man United had lost their way, and that Wayne was looking for another club. Many speculated that a deal had already been done - with Man City! United fans were up in arms. How could a player that had been treated so well by their club betray them in such a fashion. He should be drummed out of Old Trafford!
Sir Alex Ferguson took a slightly different attitude, sat Rooney down for a chat, got him to sign a new contract, and they both went on to help claim their teams nineteenth League success.
That they are likely to make that twenty within the next few weeks is not simply because Mancini got it wrong over Tevez. The City Manager has been consistently inconsistent in his man management of Mario Balottelli. For example, straight after the Arsenal game, in which the enigmatic striker was red carded, Mancini said he would not play for City again this season. Days later he was suggesting that Balotelli could be City’s match winner against United in the forthcoming ‘Derby’. I’m not convinced, either, that saying to the press that you would like to give one of your players a dig is the best motivational ploy in the world. Actually giving them a dig is probably more productive.
Worst of all, Mancini went head-to-head with Fergie. Worse still, he went head-to-head with Fergie over Paul Scholes.
Nobody beats the Old Trafford boss when it comes to psychological warfare. Ask Kevin ‘I’d just love it if we beat them’ Keegan or Rafael ‘the facts’ Benitez. Throw Paul Scholes in the mix, and not only do you rile the best manager in the country unnecessarily, but you provide additional motivation to an individual who needs little motivation, and likewise wind up his team mates.
City supporters I speak to are split over whether Mancini should stay or go should he fail to deliver the title. Having been in such a strong position at Christmas time, having spent so much money, and up against a United side that is one of the poorest Ferguson has had during his tenure, then there is a case for the Italian to be given the bullet.
Others argue that Mancini needs time in order to gain the experience. They point to the fact that the master himself, Ferguson, has only become the master because United gave him time.
If you look at Chelsea you cannot have any doubt that ‘managerial musical chairs’ do not win you the Premier League. For me, I’d give Mancini another season.
You never know, he may win it this time around – but I doubt it!