James Lawton: Mancini must now ditch poisonous Tevez

 

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The Independent Online

This was supposed to be the night when Manchester City came of age. Instead, painfully, chaotically, and in one shambolic phase in the second half, rather shamefully, they learned quite how much growing they still have to do.

As one powerful aid to this process, they plainly have to get Carlos Tevez out of their building at the first opportunity. His second-half rebellion and refusal to earn a little of his wages was surely the last statement of an ingrate whose continued stay can only represent poison.

City, after a bright, confident start, were suddenly in a bad place at the wrong time and their plight was sickeningly underlined by Tevez's behaviour. It left their manager Roberto Mancini, who had reason to believe that he had left behind the worst of the doubts that had so threatened his regime, once again reverting to a policy of caution.

To be fair to him though, it was a crisis so quickly unfolding, and so profound, that any hint of continued adventure was always likely to be the first casualty.

Bayern had spent the best part of 24 hours lecturing City on such potentially vital matters as financial prudence and planning in what they believe is the new unfolding landscape of European football – and also threw in quite a bit of their own illustrious history.

All in all it was not so much a welcome to Bavaria as an extreme provocation for City to produce one of the better performances in their relatively minuscule experience at this level of the game.

For most of the first half they did precisely that, playing the ball with a fine touch and moving with an ease befitting their skill levels and wage bill. It would have been no great injustice if the Hungarian referee had pointed to the spot when first David Silva, then Micah Richards were brought down.

Unfortunately, though, it was apparent soon enough that there is a little more than mere bombast to this Bayern who are running away with the Bundesliga and talking up their chances of soon challenging the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the new Europe.

They talk the talk, indeed, and to a degree that might just bring on a coma. However, they also walk the walk at a level of efficiency that quickly enough reduced City to a state of embarrassing disrepair.

The bitter truth was that if players like Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri have brought new levels of flair they have yet to impinge on a problem that came swirling back in all its disturbing impression of anarchy once Mario Gomez had swept two goals past Joe Hart in a few minutes before half-time.

The eruption, which left Mancini shaking his head, as well he might have done, came when Edin Dzeko was pulled off in favour of Nigel de Jong. This was the manager's statement of frustration with the increasing ease with which Bayern were taking hold of the game but if he was feeling out of sorts it was nothing to the disaffection which rippled along the City bench.

Dzeko, plainly intent on providing evidence of his impressive development in English football since his departure from Wolfsburg, was incensed by his withdrawal and it was clear that the close presence of Tevez was far from soothing. What we were reminded of, inevitably, was the question which City's more brilliant work this new season has tended to consign to the past.

Last night, unfortunately, it came back with some force. It asked once more if City's belief in a swift, even seamless passage into the heart of European football was built on a few too many quick-fire presumptions.

Certainly the arrival of De Jong at a point when City needed to revive some of their first-half fluency, and coherence, suggested strongly that Mancini's instinct was inclined more to damage control than the kind of convincing re-statement of attacking instincts he now plainly considered the most remote of prospects.

For City it may not have been the end of the world but it was certainly a heavily drawn punctuation mark, one that became even more pronounced when it was clear that Tevez was not about to inject a little fury, a little life.

This was, it seemed to be accepted by Mancini, a night when the possibilities of City skill and beauty had been condemned to the margins. If City were going to do anything in the last reaches of a night of severe disillusion, it was to be of a desperate, scuffling nature and the imperishable fact was that Bayern were now operating on an entirely different level.

It meant a long and rueful journey home from a place of much self-satisfaction, no doubt. But also a level of self-belief and performance that for some time at least can only be a somewhat fanciful ambition for the team who thought they had already played their way into the league of ready-made winners.

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