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United missing Ron and Tevez

Roberto Mancini has claimed it is no surprise Manchester United are not the same team without Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

The hazardous weather conditions that have descended on Manchester in the last 24 hours mean that Mancini will have to wait a fortnight to pit his wits against Alex Ferguson for the first time.

But when the pair eventually meet, the subject of Tevez is bound to be raised.

Ferguson declared his belief in the summer that the Argentina star had made up his mind to quit Old Trafford long before he notified them he was not willing to sign a permanent contract after two years on loan.

The United boss was not convinced Tevez was worth the money City eventually shelled out for his registration, said to be £40million in some circles.

However, the Red Devils might have benefited from the 25-year-old in December given the brilliant form that saw the former West Ham star plunder eight goals in City's return to form, at a time when United have suffered a heavy defeat at Fulham before tumbling out of the FA Cup at the hands of League One Leeds.

With Ronaldo also impressing at Real Madrid, it is little wonder most observers feel United are lacking a bit of magic at present.

And Mancini can see why.

"Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo are two top players," said the Italian. "It is normal when a team loses two players like that they might lose something.

"Carlos, for me, is one of the top 10 players in Europe. And top players cost a lot of money."

Mancini now has some additional time to work on possible new arrivals during the current transfer window, in particular Patrick Vieira, who is set to join on loan from Inter Milan.

Vieira could face United in the delayed Carling Cup semi-final, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure would be available for the second leg should either Togo or the Ivory Coast get knocked out in the group stages of the forthcoming African Nations Cup.

It does mean the likelihood of Mancini having more options at his disposal when City do eventually try to book their first major final since 1981, so he probably was not too disappointed when the decision to postpone tonight's first leg was taken, even if he could have inflicted even greater wounds on a United side already reeling from that Leeds defeat.

Meanwhile, Mancini has told of his desire to tear down a banner displayed at Old Trafford mocking the trophy drought that Manchester City have endured since 1976.

The so-called City ticker banner was positioned beneath the top tier of United's Stretford End stand by the Stretford End Flags supporters' organisation in collaboration with the club and has been a thorn in the side of City's long-suffering fans since it was first unfurled more than a decade ago.

Should City fail to win a trophy by February 28 -- the anniversary of their League Cup win in 1976 and by coincidence the date of this year's Carling Cup final, which the blue half of Manchester hope to reach at the expense of their city rivals -- then the counter will go from 33 to 34 years, a milestone that Mancini is hell-bent on avoiding.

"When we go to Old Trafford, we will take that banner down," Mancini said with a steely determination. "This is the last year (it will be displayed) because we will win."

The Stretford End Flags group has other ideas, however.

"The City barren years continue to tick on and the banner will continue to remind them of this," an entry on their website reads. "If only Robinson Crusoe had such a visible reminder whilst stuck on his desert island, or Noah whilst floating about in his Ark, all lengthy spells that didn't last as long as City's massive hunt for a trophy!

"The City ticker banner is designed to progress as each trophyless year passes, with a series of numbers installed inside the banner's design, that get rotated a couple of times a season, showing the full year on February 28."


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