Mancini offers hand to Tevez but compatriot steals show

 

Etihad Stadium

Welcome (back) to Manchester, Carlos; the Etihad Stadium on its feet, singing the name of an Argentine who had propelled their football club into the last 16 of the Europa League.

Not for Tevez, for the new Argentine love of City life, Sergio Aguero – one goal, one assist, one audacious lob after rounding Helton, the Porto goalkeeper, that cannoned back off the crossbar.

When he left (Aguero that is) at the 80th-minute mark, his job was done. Everyone stood and applauded. At 23, Aguero has the world at his lightning-quick feet. It was a reminder of a simpler time.

The informed opinion was that Tevez was not watching, at least not in the flesh. Potential redemption, admitted Roberto Mancini, in fact starts this morning.

"I accept his apology, I don't have any problem," he said. "Tomorrow [Thursday], I will meet him before training and after that he can begin to work with us. He needs maybe two or three weeks to find good form and after that, he will be OK. He can play, like the other players.

"I think Carlos knows the team very well, but the team in this last six or seven months have played very well. We are on the top of the Premier League, but we know Carlos very well, he's a top striker. I think that it will be good if he can help us to do a good job in the next two months."

Finally, olive branches.

The brutality of life at a leading club in world football has never been more emphatically shown than in Tevez's futile fight since he stayed seated in the Allianz Arena.

He knew once Aguero arrived at the Etihad Stadium in July last year that he might not quite be able to turn heads as he had done. The new model, at £38m, was more expensive, more coveted and five years younger than the Tevez who so thrilled the blue half of Manchester by moving across the city's divide.

Last night, the 23-year-old Argentine could have had a hat-trick. It took him 19 seconds effectively to end this tie, latching on to Yaya Touré's through ball and then showing the composure to slot a right-footed shot into the corner of the Porto goal. Less than a minute had gone and Aguero had done enough.

Still, his work rate and desire impressed. On the half-hour mark he adroitly went around Helton and his angled, floated shot was inches too high, striking wood rather than net. Before the half had finished, he had carved up the Porto defence once more, returning, potentially at least the favour, to Touré, whose heavy touch meant the pass was returned to Aguero before a shot went wide.

Still, his through ball to the substitute Edin Dzeko in the closing stages created a second. After his standing ovation came two more goals, but Aguero, in a team that can be rotated, now stands alongside Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Micah Richards, Yaya Touré and David Silva as a must-start.

And in that admission is the contrast to his fellow countryman.

The most frustrating part of the Tevez affair has been what football has missed: a player of real talent, able to unlock doors, with an uncanny knack of timing his high-intensity runs to perfection.

He never wasted energy on a football pitch. He instinctively knew where to be and what to do. It sits in such a marked contrast to what he has done for much of this season.

Now Tevez, with much-needed good advice in his ear, has to go back to work all over again, and conquer life's most difficult challenge; to rebuild trust, to change the opinion that five months of non-appearance has formed. His fitness is said to be good, but it will take further work to return to match speed. It has to be a given that he will put the hours in on the training ground.

More pertinently, he must keep his head down and find the patience of a quiet child waiting for his hero's signature. The latter may be the hardest thing to do but saving his career has finally to come before saving face.

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