Lee Dixon: Hernandez has proved his worth – now City's nearly-men have to justify their huge price tags

The Weekend Dossier

The loss of Carlos Tevez is a huge one for Manchester City before today's FA Cup semi-final with neighbours United.

He basically sets the tempo for the whole team which not too many players can do. His energy and commitment are infectious, and the high tempo he plays at, putting people under pressure all the time, sets the tone for the side.

You rarely see him play any other way, even when he is not actually performing all that well. His work-rate is brilliant and that rubs off on everyone else in the City team. And he scores plenty of goals, too.

He would get my vote for Player of the Year, because of the impact he has had on the City team this year. With him not being available to face United, that puts a big onus on the rest of the team, particularly some of their recent signings like David Silva, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli.

They have all taken a bit of time to settle, but you don't have to look far to see a new player who has taken to English football very quickly. United's Mexican striker Javier Hernandez is having an exceptional first season in the Premier League, with 18 goals including a vital one in the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Chelsea.

I said back in August that he had the ability to be as good as Cristiano Ronaldo and I am delighted to see that he has not let me down. I got a bit of stick for saying that, not least from my own son, but I just liked the way he pulled defenders around the pitch.

Hernandez has surprised a few people with the way he has settled into our football, but he seems to be a very intelligent footballer, and if you have intelligence and ability, you are going to do well.

I like to watch forwards and the way they work defenders. I remember as a player having games where I was pulled all over the place, being thrown around like a rag doll, and you have to change the way you play the next time you face that player again. Sometimes you might decide not to follow them to some part of the pitch, but that has its own risks. It all goes to making your job as a defender even harder.

Hernandez is a breath of fresh air for United. He has been likened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was a hugely under-rated player in his time. Hernandez is one of those players who maybe is held in a higher regard by his team-mates than those outside the club, because they appreciate the work he does. And he is is only going to get better, having spent time in the company of players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

It is that kind of player that City need today if they are to overturn their great rivals. Silva has shown glimpses of brilliance since his £24m move from Valencia and is a very high-class player. But sometimes it is hard for a flair player to make an impact at City, where Roberto Mancini keeps it tight very often, playing a defensive formation particularly away from home. Silva might receive the ball deeper than normal and it is not always that easy for him to flourish. Also he came to City on the back of a successful but draining World Cup.

I do think he has done well this season but we certainly need to see more from Balotelli and Dzeko. They were both recruited for big money and this is the moment for them to repay the faith shown in them by Mancini, with Tevez out injured.

Balotelli is clearly very talented, but he is such a loose cannon. Maybe he can provide the inspiration that opens the door for City against United. Dzeko has really struggled since his £27m move from Wolfsburg and now he has to prove he is up to the task. It is a real test of character for these players but that is the life of a professional footballer. It was one of things I did not miss when I retired – having to go out and prove yourself again and again in front of 60,000 people every week. It is good for players, and managers, to be tested and challenged. It is when they show their true character.

This is that kind of moment for City, and their manager Mancini. The owners will definitely be watching them now, to see exactly what kind of person they have got for their money.

I remember when Tony Adams was sent to jail for drink-driving in 1990. He was a huge player for us at Arsenal, but we didn't let it affect us and we ended up winning the league that season. These are very different circumstances now at City, but it is a test for all their players, but particularly a couple of their newest arrivals.

The loss of Tevez could be the catalyst for other players to take a more prominent role, and it could end up being an important moment for City, with the FA Cup and a Champions League place to play for.

Or it could go wrong and they could end up with nothing, which would be a disaster for the club and Mancini.

Bolton and Stoke lack glamour but provide the real romance

Tomorrow's semi-final is the less glamorous game, unless you are a fan of Bolton or Stoke, but for me it is the epitome of what the FA Cup means. I used to play for Bolton as a schoolboy and I was a professional player at Stoke.

Some people think this game lacks star appeal but I think it's great for the FA Cup. The competition is about dreaming of playing at Wembley, its history is concerned with feats of giant-killing, and how unfancied teams can make it all the way to the final, and this semi-final just proves it.

It shows the romance is still there, and keeps alive the belief that reaching the final is attainable. Tomorrow's game means a huge amount to the supporters of both clubs but that is nothing to how big the final will be for the fans of the winning side.

The FA Cup final is a great occasion but it's not really about the millions watching on TV around the world. It's about the supporters making all that noise inside Wembley and making it a wonderful occasion. The FA Cup final should not always be the two best teams in the Premier League slugging it out once more. It is about everyone having a chance of glory, and tomorrow's game between Stoke and Bolton proves that.

Five Asides

1. Ancelotti always knew the stakes at Chelsea

Carlo Ancelotti faces an uncertain future after Chelsea lost their Champions League quarter-final to Manchester United but that seems to go with the territory at Stamford Bridge these days.

It is hard on the manager but history shows that it is a pretty ruthless regime under Roman Abramovich, which is why the managers there get paid such big bucks. Ancelotti knew that when he signed up so in private he must be expecting to get the sack at the end of the season, whatever he might say in public.

2. Which Manchester club suits Mourinho?

One of Ancelotti's predecessors Jose Mourinho was talking about his return to England this week, after Real Madrid knocked out Tottenham. He clearly has his eye on the Manchester United job, but it is all about timing and Sir Alex Ferguson is not going just yet. Jose's hand might be forced, however, if his team gets thumped by Barcelona over the four games they have coming up. If he gets sacked, and Mancini goes at City, then Mourinho might have to settle for a move to Eastlands.

3. Arsenal legend Wilson bikes to every ground

I'm joining Bob Wilson on Monday as he cycles round the London Premier League grounds to raise money for his Willow Foundation, which organises days out for seriously ill youngsters. He is 70 later this year, and is cycling to every Premier League ground in England, then on to Hampden Park.

Hopefully you can spare some money to sponsor him at www.justgiving.com/BobWilsonSoccerCycle

4. Tevez and Wilshere deserve to get awards

The PFA awards are announced tomorrow. I can remember spending ages working out who would be in my team of the year, but some of my team-mates did it in five seconds. Carlos Tevez would be my Player of the Year, and Jack Wilshere the best youngster.

5. McIlroy will bounce back from meltdown

I've met Rory McIlroy once – we were watching a Lakers game in Los Angeles with Ian Poulter and Vernon Kay. He was such a nice guy, which made watching his meltdown at Augusta on Sunday even more painful. I'm certain he will come back and win several majors.

Lee Dixon's verdict on all the weekend action

Birmingham City vs Sunderland

Dixon's verdict: Both these clubs are desperate for points but City will get the win here. They have lost two of their last three home games but Sunderland are in dire form and Steve Bruce needs to arrest the slump.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Blackpool vs Wigan Athletic

Dixon's verdict: Ian Holloway's side showed spirit and belief in defeat against Arsenal and they won't go down without a fight. Wigan have also performed well recently, though, so it could be honours even.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

Everton vs Blackburn Rovers

Dixon's verdict: For all their season spent in the bottom half, Everton have been in good form, losing one of eight, and retain hopes of a European spot. Blackburn frustrate with their inconsistency and won't get anything here.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

West Bromwich Albion vs Chelsea

Dixon's verdict: Chelsea will be desperate for a pick-me-up following their European exit but they won't find it easy against a Baggies side that continue to impress. Carlo Ancelotti may well have to settle for a point.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Setanta Ireland; Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

West Ham United vs Aston Villa

Dixon's verdict: Just when West Ham appear as though they have turned the corner, they go and play like they did at Bolton to find themselves right back in danger. Villa have improved and have enough to take a draw.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

Arsenal vs Liverpool

Dixon's verdict: Arsenal's season remains alive, just, and a few welcome returns from injury at the back could add extra impetus. Liverpool looked very good in beating Manchester City but remain unpredictable on the road.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC 2, 10pm)

Prediction: Home win

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence