Monday 23 October 2017

Mancini channels power of the underdog as Tevez ruled out for at least three weeks

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini looks away from Mario Balotelli after substituting him during Monday's defeat at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini looks away from Mario Balotelli after substituting him during Monday's defeat at Anfield. Photo: Getty Images

Ian Herbert

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini declared last night that a career that has seen him take charge of the underdog in three great footballing cities would help him rally his side for tomorrow's FA Cup semi-final, and ride out the huge blow delivered by the news that Carlos Tevez could have played his last game this season.

Mancini believes that victory over Manchester United at Wembley could prove to be a seminal moment in City's progression to the future he sees for them as "an important club in the world".

But Tevez's absence for at least three weeks with a hamstring tear has left his manager seeking to nurture the spirit of the underdog.

The comparisons with Alex Ferguson's side are tough to live up to, Mancini admitted. "But it was the same when I went to Lazio because Roma were better; and at Inter because Milan won everything," he said. "This is my life."

Dominant

Though Tevez has been the dominant force for City this season, Mancini's task has been to reinforce the idea that life can go on without him.

"We can't cry now. We have other players. Carlos is very important for us but we can win this game without him," the Italian said, invoking the recent feat of Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final as evidence that "football can change in 90 minutes", as he put it.

"Anything can happen in one game against United. Who would have thought that Birmingham could beat Arsenal?"

One of Mancini's priorities has been to prevent the dismal 3-0 defeat at Anfield on Monday having a negative effect on the players.

He has not put the players through sessions watching DVDs of the match and one of his first messages when the players involved returned to full training on Wednesday was that he wanted them to forget the game.

His suggestion that a mistake of his own making was somehow responsible for the defeat appears simply to be a device to prevent his players dwelling on their worst display of the season.

He also claimed he was responsible in the dressing-room after the match, though has offered no explanation of the mistake he might have been referring to.

The manager's disclosure yesterday that Micah Richards has recuperated from his own hamstring injury at a rate beyond all expectation and is available for Wembley is of great significance, considering the defensive implosion of the City side at Liverpool.

But Mancini will also need to summon his own powers of motivation, with James Milner's reaction when substituted at Anfield contributing to the sense that City are not behind him in a way that United are behind Ferguson.

It would be "stupid" for any of them to bear grudges if left out on Saturday, he said "because, like me, the players have a good chance. It's important for these players because it could be their first trophy.

"It's not important who plays on Saturday, all the players are behind me."

Mancini cannot take any blame for the Tevez injury since the Argentine is understood to have trained strenuously for a week before his reintroduction to the City side for last week's 5-0 home win over Sunderland.

Pressed hard on the Tevez's recuperation time, Mancini said the striker would play some part this season.

"I hope he can recover for the last three games maybe because it's a serious injury," he said.

Crucial

That prognosis would see Tevez available for the potentially crucial Premier League clash with Tottenham which, with Spurs three points behind City with a game in hand, could be the same Champions League eliminator it was last season.

Mancini has asked his staff to help to minimise the hype surrounding tomorrow's match, which City enter with only one win in six against United in the Abu Dhabi era.

But he said yesterday that victory against United would see City lift the FA Cup and their first silverware for 35 years and provide a springboard to a title next year.

"I'm sure that if we get to the final we will win the cup," Mancini said. "If we win the FA Cup and go in the Champions League next year we will play to win the title. 100pc.

"From next year everything would be different. I don't know if United think that the future will be different for them if we win. But I think it will be different if we win."

Jose Mourinho has remarked on suggestions that he might become the next City manager that it was "impossible" that he would leave Real Madrid, though Mancini's calm approach to the semi-final included a tart response to that yesterday: "Also for me it's difficult that I can go to Real Madrid!" (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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