Mancini should bring back Tevez now if he wants to keep his job
Underestimation appears to be a Roberto Mancini speciality.
Somehow, back in January, he underestimated the threat carried by Everton at Goodison Park and, somehow, he underestimated the danger posed by Sporting Lisbon – not a powerhouse but a club with a decent European pedigree.
It is a worrying trend.
But he would do well not to underestimate the ruthlessness of an owner prepared to invest such eye-watering largesse in his club.
So far, the vibes are supportive, the feedback from Abu Dhabi carries patient undertones. But only one prize remains within Manchester City’s grasp – and, indeed, within Manchester United’s – while the uncertainty over Jose Mourinho’s next move continues.
If City are held at bay by United and Mourinho becomes available, the Sheikh would be presented with an opportunity that would be unlikely to present itself again.
It would be an option difficult to resist. And Mancini has the air of a man who understands that title-race failure will have job-ending consequences.
It is a supremely ironic twist that the man who could yet do most to preserve Mancini’s position is the man who was once widely perceived to be consistently undermining it. Carlos Tevez.
If United beat Wolves on Sunday, Mancini will take his team into this week’s game against a resurgent Chelsea four points behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Then, the significance of not succeeding in that match would be that United could win the title without having to get a result at the Etihad on April 30. Wednesday will be a watershed night for Mancini. Ditto for Tevez, a player with a point to prove.
Tevez needs to prove his public and private apologies were sincere, that he can be selfless rather than selfish, that the prize of helping City earn their first league crown in 44 years is greater than any personal acclaim.
And for all his faults, Tevez appears to be a man who responds when a point has to be proven. Just over two years ago, Tevez was one of Wayne Bridge’s key supporters in the distasteful John Terry affair.
He went to Stamford Bridge for the infamous non-handshake game, ran Terry ragged, went puffed-out-chest-to-puffed-out-chest with the Chelsea captain, scored twice and publicly dedicated one of his goals to Bridge. He relished the tension of the game, thrived on the occasion’s raw-nerved sub-plot.
A Tevez recall for Chelsea would give an even sharper edge to a crucial occasion.
There would be no hint of ignominy for Mancini if he turned to Tevez.
If anything, the whole affair has shown Mancini to be a strong coach.
He got what he wanted – unconditional contrition from Tevez.
Sure, it took a while. But Mancini was in no rush while his players were performing so efficiently.
Now, they clearly need a lift, a shot of adrenalin, and Mancini has at his disposal a world-class player who, according to many within City’s training headquarters, is as lean and as fit as he has been for some considerable time.
And a player with that point to prove and with a badly-collapsed bridge with the fans to repair.
It is like having a new high-calibre recruit at your disposal for the final stretch. In January 1992, Howard Wilkinson snapped up Eric Cantona. His contributions – three goals but crucial assists, often as an impact sub – were instrumental in Wilkinson’s Leeds fending off Manchester United to win the Championship.
Tevez has demonstrated many times that he can have that kind of talismanic effect.
There may well be a good deal of residual resentment amongst staff and supporters over the way Tevez, firstly, behaved and, secondly, disappeared to Argentina. But the cold fact is that City have more chance of being successful with a fit, motivated Tevez in the team than they do without one.
And the extent to which success – particularly long-awaited success – can atone for a multitude of sins cannot be under-estimated.
Not even by Roberto Mancini.
The result that caught my eye during a typically hectic football week was Bayern Munich 7 Basel 0.
This was the Swiss team who drew at Old Trafford and beat Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in Basel to effectively knock Manchester United out of the Champions League.
Throw in the grim statistics that show United won just three of this season’s 10 European games (two of them were against Romanian unknowns Otelul Galati) and will not contest any sort of final for the first time in 10 years and you have a reflection of one of Ferguson’s more ordinary teams. It has been said in one or two previous seasons but winning the Premier League with this group of players would rank as his finest achievement.