First he couldn't get a look in at Manchester United, now he can't get away from the place. Carlos Tevez, whose opening goal in the Carling Cup quarter-final demolition of Arsenal helped set up next month's semi-final derby, was salivating at the prospect yesterday, his experience in the Old Trafford league game in September clearly having rid him of any fondness for the place.
Tevez's hero status on the Stretford End had already been revoked three months back before a coin was thrown at him as United and City processed off at half-time in the league game, hitting substitute Javier Garrido instead. "I don't think I deserved to be treated that way by the United fans," Tevez reflected yesterday. "When I was there I was a hard-working and loyal player who gave my all. Obviously I was disappointed, but that's football. Sometimes these things happen."
Tevez declares he will still not be prepared to celebrate if he scores in the semi-final – either at Eastlands on 6 January or the Old Trafford return two weeks later. But he clearly feels he has taken more abuse than he should have from his former manager, who suggested this summer that his price tag – whether it was £25m or £47m no-one has been prepared to say – was an exaggerated value of his true worth.
There was also Sir Alex Ferguson's Vesuvian eruption over the Tevez "Welcome to Manchester" poster which mocked United's local status. "[The] poster wasn't anything to do with me. I was just chosen for the picture," Tevez said. "United should be more concerned and afraid about what we can do on the pitch, rather than with any poster. We showed in the derby that we have what it takes to compete with them and though I wouldn't want to rub their noses in it, obviously I'd be delighted if we could beat them and reach the final."
There is plenty to concern United, if Wednesday evening's events are much to go by. The purpose City demonstrated in the 3-0 defeat of Arsène Wenger's charges leaves the United manager in no doubt that fielding young players for the semi-final constitutes a serious risk. It will be fascinating to see whether he risks handing the "noisy neighbours" bragging rights by fielding a similar side to the one which defeated Tottenham in the quarter-final or settles for the kind of line-up, including Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Ruud van Nistelrooy, which defeated Mark Hughes' Blackburn in the 2005-06 semi final, the season United beat Wigan Athletic in the final.
Tevez had some good Carling Cup moments at United himself, scoring four of his 15 goals for the club last season in the demolition of this year's fellow semi-finalists Blackburn. It maddened him that he was dropped to the bench again by Ferguson for the next game. Wednesday's goal was his fifth of this campaign and yet we are no closer to knowing whether he is best deployed from the bench, as Ferguson always preferred. Just two of those goals have come in the Premier League and the others were against Scunthorpe United and Crystal Palace en route to the semi-finals. His 426 minutes without scoring in five of his Premier League starts, taken with the way he injected such life into City from the bench in the 2-2 draw at Anfield, point to the wisdom of keeping him back and the defeat of an anaemic Arsenal cannot change that picture overnight. It is still up to the Argentine to prove that he can deliver consistently against more robust defenders than Alex Song and Mikaël Silvestre.
Tevez, whom Hughes suggested at Anfield would not play every game, pointed out that factors beyond his control – injuries to his foot and knee – have contributed to a first four months in east Manchester which have been less comfortable than he would have liked. "I'm feeling great now but I've had to overcome a couple of injuries, one to my knee, so I didn't have any kind of pre-season," he said.
The 25-year-old's outlook on the value of a League Cup semi-final place yesterday demonstrated the kind of mentality which appeals to Hughes. While City might consider silverware a priority, Tevez's ultimate ambitions lie elsewhere. "The main objective for us is to finish the season in fourth place and get into the Champions League," he said. "So beating Chelsea on Saturday would give us a huge boost in trying to achieve that objective. That's our focus now."
Yet Tevez has been in his adoptive city long enough to know that a Carling Cup semi-final victory over United, incorporating another momentous night like Wednesday's, taken with, say, a seventh-place Premier League finish should be enough to keep Hughes in his job this summer. Seventh place alone might not.
Derby dates: League Cup showdowns
3, 17 December 1969 Semi-finals: Man City 2 Man United 1, Man United 2 Man City 2 (City won 4-3 on aggregate)
City took the first leg and just about managed to hold on to that advantage at Old Trafford. Franny Lee and Mike Summerbee scored away goals to put Joe Mercer's side into the final, where they beat West Bromwich.
9 October 1974 Third round: Man United 1 Man City 0
Gerry Daly scored the only goal as Tommy Docherty's side, now in English football's second tier, progressed. The Red Devils went on to lose to Norwich in the semi-finals.
12 November 1975 Fourth round: Man City 4 Man United 0
The great rivals were pitted against each other for a second consecutive season and City gained revenge in storming style. Goals from Asa Hartford, Joe Royle and a Dennis Tueart double sent the club through as City went on to lift the cup, in what remains the club's last major trophy.
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