Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Tevez finally turns Blue

It was a poignant moment. Derby Day, the score 1-0 to United. Having just danced around Richard Dunne on the edge of the City penalty area, a pint sized, red-shirted Argentinean by the name of Carlos Tevez unleashed a shot that cracked the inside of the left post and rippled the back of City keeper Shay Given’s net.

The striker reeled away in celebration, but his focus was not wholly on the glory of scoring in a Manchester Derby. Instead, the Argentinean raced to the centre circle and, facing his manager, placed his hands behind his own ears to emphasise to Sir Alex Ferguson the roar of the Old Trafford faithful. The adoration for the red shirt of Tevez was unmistakable.

“I deserve to be signed up” was the perceived message at the time. But now we know the full meaning of the little Argentinean’s actions: “Look at how good I am, and look at what you will be missing”.

It is unclear at what point the normally sublime man-managing skills of Ferguson alienated the South American striker. But that mistake - and no matter what Ferguson may say it is a mistake – has now been capitalised upon by interlocutors of an Arabian hue.

£25.5m later, Carlos Tevez is a Manchester City player. How about that.

The impact for Manchester United
Let’s be straight about this. The loss of Tevez is not a disaster for United. In a tactical sense it is affordable. Ferguson obviously sees more bang for his buck in Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney. The fact that he had already forked out for the two of them probably had something to do with why Tevez remained in the shadows last season.

As much as City fans dislike Rooney, they all know about his unusual mix of power, skill and awareness. But the Bulgarian is a different story. Whilst definitely possessing the silky skills to oil the wheels of United’s slick attacking machine (he is probably a slight cut above Tevez in that regard), Berbatov is too sulky and inconsistent to be placed at the fulcrum of United’s attack for my liking. Relying on this offensive formation is a risk.

Then there is the more explicit loss of Tevez’ talents. He is one of a rare breed of footballer that is both technically gifted and prepared to run himself into the ground for the team. This is a valuable combination in the modern game, and especially so in the English game. Anyone who says Tevez will not be missed by United needs to reappraise the situation.

Finally, there is the loss of image and prestige that has been referred to previously on this blog. In Ronaldo and Tevez, United have lost two significant attacking talents, with the most likely immediate replacements seeming to be Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen. Irrespective of what Valencia and Owen achieve this season, there was a time when United did not let their top, top talent leave. It says something about the new realities of modern football that they have been unable to do this.

One new reality is in the realm of aspiration, the premise that it is now no longer good enough to win trophies at Manchester United. Cristiano Ronaldo illustrates this, with the petulant winger leaving because he had bigger Iberian dreams to pursue.

Then there is the new reality of finance. Carlos Tevez left because he did not feel wanted at the club. That alienation probably derived in part from United wrangling over his price tag. Ferguson did want Tevez to stay at the club – that much is clear – but he could not make a deal happen because the price was too steep. The price was too steep because United’s pockets have limits. Of course, the same does not now apply on the Eastern side of Manchester.

The impact for Manchester City
Things are rather more simple for City. For starters, there are no drawbacks attached to the move. Money is no object – ten more £25m signings could be made and it would not make a jot of difference to the club’s super financial state. How boastful this sounds, but it is simply the new reality of life as a City fan.

Tactically there appears to be no problems either. I would’ve thought that Tevez’s aggressive, direct style fits perfectly with both Mark Hughes’ training regime and the work ethic that the City manager is trying to encourage on the pitch. The tenacity of Tevez will also provide a much needed boost to our efforts on the road. Let’s face it, those efforts were on life support for the majority of last season. The Argentinean’s engine and work rate will hopefully set a shining example to the rest of the team as to how to play well and win away games in the Premier League.

Most obviously, the new acquisition bodes well for our attacking options. Tevez can be the foil for the big man that we already have (Roque Santa-Cruz) or the big man that may well come (Emmanuel Adebayor). I think he can also be employed in the formation we used last year, though I have more to say about tactics in upcoming posts. Of course, underlying all of this is Tevez’s goal scoring ability. The goal against City in last season’s encounter at Old Trafford says it all.

Another defining moment?
Part of me thinks that I shouldn’t be surprised with the signing of Carlos Tevez. We are, after all, a club with money, a club with a new vision, but to a certain extent I still can’t believe that he is sitting in a press conference with Mark Hughes. I guess that for a time, the vision of our new owners hasn’t quite felt as special as it was during September 2008, with the signing of Robinho. That we couldn’t attract the likes of Kaka and Eto’o I guess dented that vision for me.

I guess I was settling for a summer of good, solid acquisitions, players who knew the ropes of the Premier League and could get us into a position where we were able to knock on the door of the top four. To an extent we are still doing this – and I am completely fine with that because it is a realistic target. But the signing of Tevez feels different and it is a signing that I am very excited about.

At root, Tevez is just another reminder of the true intent of our owners. All the recent negatives: Kaka, Eto’o, finishing out of European qualifying in 10th place – they do not matter like they would’ve done in the past. Why? Because the owners are still there, forcing the club over its setbacks, driving the club forward because that is the only way it is going to go.

That new culture can only be good for us. By the same token, it can only be worrying for our rivals.


  1. I agree that Tevez is a terrific acquisition and when it became clear that United wouldn't keep him, I really wanted him to join my club Liverpool. I don't think many people realise quite how good Tevez can be, since he was essentially a bench player at United last season (even though I think United were stronger in 2007-08 when Tevez played alongside Rooney). He's aggressive, he's quick, and he's a very clever and talented player.

    I think the one downside, which Mark didn't touch on, is that Tevez has never been a prolific goalscorer. Yes, he can score some beauties, but he's never done it consistently. Tim Vickery from the BBC was pointing out recently that Tevez has just eight goals for Argentina in 40+ appearances and he's falling behind Sergio Aguero in the pecking order at international level for just that reason (Tevez and Aguero are quite similar - but Aguero scores more goals).

    That said, Tevez could be brilliant in tandom with a Santa Cruz or an Adebayor. I really like the way this City squad is shaping up and when you see the Big Four making very few new (and certainly, no major) signings this year, it could be very interesting.


  2. Anonymous15/7/09 08:01