Away from the Wembley drama and controversy this weekend there was a Premier League title being fought over in Manchester.
You can ignore Mancini’s mind games stating his belief that United have already won the league, as City are very much still in the race, especially so considering the nature of their 6-1 dismantling of impressive Norwich on Saturday.
United reopened the five point gap with a comfortable 3-0 win over the now relegation threatened Aston Villa on Sunday, and remain the heavy favourites at the bookies.
In early March this column backed Fergie’s side when they were still two points behind City, and a drop in the Citizens form coupled with the Red Devils shifting into business mode has made that prediction look pretty safe.
However, City are not out of it just yet and inside the Etihad camp players and staff may see United’s lead as just two points when you consider they are still to host the champions.
An exciting final run-in is what all the neutrals want, and with City facing bottom club Wolves and United hosting in-form Everton before Derby Day, it looks like we will get our wish.
Stepping back from the seven remaining games that will decide these two Manchester club’s fate, it becomes clear that we should not really be discussing a possible 20th win for United at all.
City have the most money, the best squad and for most of this season were unplayable. How have they not already wrapped the league up against a resilient but undeniably weak United?
The answer is Carlos Tevez. A man that is no stranger to either clubs, having done the unthinkable and jumped ship from Old Trafford to Eastlands in 2009. If Tevez had not taken his six month golfing sabbatical, City would be this years league winners.
Last season captain Carlos scored 24 goals in 44 games as he shone as the Citizen’s best player during a mixed campaign. Oh how that sort of return would have helped city this year.
Since his return to the starting line-up, Carlitos has scored four goals from two games and his comeback has undoubtedly lifted this City team to play the brand of football they did earlier in the season again. Once he lost all the weight that is.
And that did take a while, but his two starts since his sabbatical have coincided with huge City victories. West Brom and Norwich aren’t the best teams in the league, but it was the way Tevez combined with Samir Nasri, David Silva and Sergio Aguero that really made the difference.
Tevez now looks streamlined and determined, his hunger epitomised by his chasing down of a lacklustre pass-back against Norwich to bag his third. And the golf swing he used to celebrate would have brought a wry smile to even his most ardent critic.
The doubters will insist that had Tevez been in the team all season things would not have be markedly different, that Silva would have still gone missing, Aguero would have still lost his goalscoring form and Yaya Toure would have still gone to the African Cup of Nations for a month, depriving the side of their most influential midfielder.
This may be, but Tevez would have been one more world-class talent around to shoulder the burden when the creative juices of Silva stopped flowing, help find the net when Aguero’s powder dried and judging by his Scholes-esque moments recently – dropping deep to pick up the ball of the centre backs before pinging it wide – the Argentine could have helped fill Toure’s large shoes in the middle.
The question that is sure to mystify all but a select few who know the answer, is why did Tevez abandon his team-mates, manager, paymasters and fans in the disgraceful way he did?
We were told he insisted on a move closer to his family in Argentina, yet the closest transfer he came to making was to Serie A. Check your globe, Italy isn’t much nearer to South America.
Perhaps it was a matter of pride after being dropped so easily by Mancini in the early part of the season, forced to watch on as his team were successful without him. And his refusal to come off the bench and play second fiddle in Munich to compatriot Aguero was the final straw.
Or is Carlitos – the boy from the block, who refused cosmetic surgery to improve the scars running from his ear to chest that occurred as a result of being scalded with boiling water as a child – badly advised? Perhaps, Kia Joobrachian is hardly a saint.
Whatever the reason for his enforced absence, City missed Tevez and he has missed them. His ‘golfing sabbatical’ or however you want to word it, left his team short of attacking options during the toughest parts of this term as United clicked into third, fourth and fifth gears.
Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli have scored goals this season, but will go down as flops due to their often lacklustre performances. But while Tevez’s commitment off the pitch is a bone of very large contention, his desire on it is always 100%.
As City thrashed Spurs and United away from home during their Indian summer, Tevez was forced to watch on and wince. But it was as they lost to first Everton and then Swansea, after a new year humbling at Sunderland that their former captain was most needed.
United should win the title this season, but had Tevez stuck around then City would have walked it. And somewhere in Manchester, Fergie is enjoying the last laugh.
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