Mancini has time on side for rebuilding

Vieira a target for City as League Cup postponement allows players to recover
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The Independent Online

The postponement of the Carling Cup semi-final should suit Manchester City rather than United. By the time the first leg at Eastlands that was to have been played tonight gets under way on 19 January, Manchester City's injury problems should have eased considerably. Robinho, Micah Richards, Roque Santa Cruz and Shaun Wright-Phillips were all doubtful starters for this evening's tie but should be fit for the rearranged fixture and the second leg at Old Trafford on 27 January. Manchester United's injury problems are more intractable, with no date set for the return of Rio Ferdinand, John O'Shea or Owen Hargreaves.

In addition the City manager, Roberto Mancini, may have completed his first wave of transfer activity by persuading the veterans Patrick Vieira and Ivan Cordoba to exchange San Siro for Eastlands. Vieira's last kick in English football was to win Arsenal the 2005 FA Cup against Manchester United, although his former manager, Arsène Wenger, said a return to the Premier League with City would surprise him. The 33-year-old, who is out of favour at Mancini's former club, Internazionale, had been expected to join Lyons during this month's transfer window.

"I was surprised it was Manchester City because there were more talks planned with other clubs," Wenger said. "But it is a good opportunity. I believe he will be very effective back in the Premier League because he has been injury-free for three or four months and that is what is needed."

Moreover, if Togo or Ivory Coast fail to qualify for the knockout stages of the African Nations Cup – and they are both in the same group – then either Emmanuel Adebayor or Kolo Touré should be available for Old Trafford. Realistically, if either side go out in the quarter-finals on 24-25 January, there would be insufficient time for them to return to Manchester from Angola.

"It's important we get through January," Mancini said. "If we do very well this month then I think the future is very good for us because we've got players coming back from injury and it's possible we could arrive in the top four if we have a good month. I think we can improve even more defensively in the next week because so far we have only worked on the training pitch for five days."

The decision to abandon the first leg was taken because of the Siberian conditions that have gripped the North-west of England. City's ticket office and club shop were closed yesterday because staff were unable to get to work. There would have been 900 on duty for the derby as well as 47,000 fans in temperatures estimated to be minus 6C. Greater Manchester police were responding yesterday to emergency calls only and the situation was not expected to improve. The City chief executive, Garry Cook, said that, while the pitch was playable, "what was paramount in our thinking was the safety of fans travelling in sub-zero temperatures".

Nevertheless Mancini, who built his early managerial reputation by taking Sampdoria and Lazio to the Coppa Italia, is eager to get to grips with City's 34-year wait for silverware.

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