If Sir Alex Ferguson was watching the game tonight, there is one thing which will have occupied his thoughts – Carlos Tevez’ role as attacking fulcrum at Manchester City.
Tevez’ hat-trick tonight made it 14 goals at City this season, which, when compared with Dimitar Berbatov’s 6 really shines the light on Ferguson’s decision to buy Berbatov in the first place. It now appears he made a mistake in bidding for him with Carlos Tevez at the club – he behaved like the man in a healthy relationship with a girlfriend perfect for him, yet who nevertheless covets the model with a large chest.
Of course, the Bulgarian’s talent is not in doubt, and I have never subscribed to the view that he is lazy. His languid style is the product of a mental attitude that allows him the sublime touches, imperious through balls and classy finishes when on song. Players attempt to reach the mental state known as ‘the zone’ in a variety of different ways, but concentration and relaxation are key.
Berbatov’s style is a manifestation of how he feels comfortable playing, and in any case, the stats for the ground he has covered when playing have never backed up the cliché. It’s become evident however, that his confidence fluctuates and he has struggled to find his rhythm on the grand stage that is Manchester United.
Ferguson went on record when the Tevez transfer situation came to a head saying that the player wasn’t worth the 28 million requested by Kia Joorabchian. Yet, on numerous occasions last season – the game against Tottenham at Old Trafford comes to mind – Tevez was brought off the bench to galvanise the team, which he often did to devastating effect.
His ability to drop deep, receive the ball and run at defenders, thereby creating space for his teammates, was in contrast to Berbatov who was used almost as a playmaker from deep positions, where to be fair to him, he finished the season with 9 assists. The trouble is, playing further forward this year, Berbatov has not kicked on and scored the type of goals fans were used to in his days at Tottenham.
What with the loss of Ronaldo, the arrested development of Nani and Anderson, the aging of Paul Scholes, and the alarming slump of Michael Carrick that seems to have been precipitated by his poor display in the Champions League final, Manchester United have seemed to lack real creativity and drive from central midfield.
If Tevez had stayed at the club, he could have been an integral cog in how they function, as he is revelling in the limelight at Manchester City. But it is clear that Fergie was taken in by Berbatov’s flair and thus overlooked Tevez’ dynamic, reliable presence. His error was in not apportioning the value of the two players correctly.
Fans don’t always know best, but Manchester United’s have never really taken to Berbatov, and we all know what they thought of Carlos Tevez, whose marvellous work-rate was and indeed is, mentioned repetitively by broadcasters and pundits alike.
For once, Fergie should have listened to them, and to himself: he repeatedly said in his press conferences that Carlos Tevez was a scorer of important goals. In the Champions League against Lyon, the league game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and particularly in the Carling Cup, where he finished top scorer, he was a key figure.
All of which combines to make Ferguson’s eventual appraisal of Tevez slightly baffling; what kind of point haul would Manchester United have had this year if they had kept him? Would they have been a better side? The answer has to be yes.
Dimitar Berbatov may still have a chance for redemption at Manchester United – his talent is such that if he comes good, it will be worth it in the manner of Ibrahimovic’s success at Barcelona, as they are very similar players, but for the time being, even the most hard nosed United fan must admit that their team misses Tevez.
And if Manchester City achieve the success they crave, it’s very likely a large part of it will be down to the wandering eyes of Alex Ferguson.