Carlos Tevez last night delivered Sir Alex Ferguson and his captain Gary Neville a taunting reminder of what Manchester United gave up in relinquishing his services last summer, scoring twice to clinch a controversial and incendiary Carling Cup semi-final first-leg tie.
Tevez gestured repeatedly to Neville to be silent after the captain gestured at him with a finger when he ran towards the touchline having converted a contentious 42rd-minute penalty. He also cupped his ears in front of the manager's dugout having deposited his 65th-minute header to seal a 2-1 win. The Argentine's actions contributed to a febrile atmosphere in which a plastic cigarette lighter was thrown at United's Patrice Evra on the touchline, objects were hurled between fans, and stewards dealt with a crush of United fans before the game.
The result leaves the tie delicately poised, with United needing a win of any description at Old Trafford a week tonight, but Tevez's goals, taking his tally to 13 in 11 games and easing him two goals ahead of Wayne Rooney in club football this season, must leave Ferguson questioning the decision to let him go. "That's just the way it happens. It can be like that. It can bite you," the United manager said last night. "We've had a few players leave the club and score against us. It's not an issue. I'm happy with the players we have."
Neville, also the substitute who taunted City fans after United's injury-time winner against City at Old Trafford in September, stoked the fire before this game by suggesting Ferguson was right to refuse "financial demands" and release Tevez this summer. But City manager Roberto Mancini, whose side fell behind to a 17th-minute Ryan Giggs tap in, said he was unaware of Neville's gesture. "I don't know if this is the situation," he said. "I hope only that Carlo plays the same and scores another goal [next week.] It's most important to go to the final, we know we had a difficult game."
Tevez said: "I feel OK. I'm tired but I'm OK, two goals that are very special for me. United are my old team but I'm City now." His penalty, which came after the United right-back Rafael da Silva marginally impeded Craig Bellamy as he raced inside from City's left, was questionable, though Ferguson for once did not risk disciplinary action on the issue.
"I'm not getting into the penalty. Everybody can see it for themselves," he said. "The kind of decision that's gone against us today may go for us another day."
City's win replicates the scoreline of the League Cup semi-final first leg of 3 December 1969, which they followed up with a 2-2 draw which took them to a final in which they defeated West Bromwich Albion 2-1. But Ferguson, whose desire to win last night was reflected in his full-strength side, voiced confidence. "It will be a Man Utd crowd at Old Trafford and with the occasion and what is at stake we will be OK," he said. "I thought we played well. We dominated the match. There were a mad couple of minutes before the equalising goal. We lost our composure for 15 minutes. After that we were OK."
Mancini, who saw Shay Given save at Rooney's feet 10 minutes from time and Nedum Onuoha clear off the line from Antonio Valencia from the rebound, joked: "I think we have a 51 per cent chance.
"We are happy because Carlo now plays for us but Manchester United have some big players – Rooney, Giggs, Berbatov – many, many players," he said.Reuse content