Manchester United would have benefited from taking up their option on Carlos Tevez last summer instead of letting him go. I know it's a view that puts me at odds with Gary Neville (sorry, Nev) and even with Sir Alex Ferguson, who ultimately made the call, but that's my opinion. And it's not just because he went to City, or because he's just put two past United (which I still very much consider to be my club) – I've voiced the same opinion since last summer.
Before the Carling Cup semi-final on Tuesday night, Neville made the point that perhaps Tevez or his representatives demanded too large a fee or too high a salary, and that no player can call the shots at United in that way. I can't comment on the specifics – I don't see the pay slips, and I can't see inside Tevez's head to understand his demands.
But what I did see, clearly, was a footballer of immense ability who was pivotal to United's success in 2007-08, when they achieved the Champions League and Premier League double. And while his impact was arguably less striking last season, he could reasonably argue that the diminished return was down to fewer starts. But the goals he scored were still important, and he is one of those rare players who can spark something from nothing to change a game and come away with a victory.
Let's assume Tevez and his advisers had already made up their minds he wanted out of United. And let's also assume that the club thought a fee of £25m (or more) to his owners, plus more for a big contract, was pricey – I still think there might have been some better solution. Why wouldn't Tevez want to stay at the biggest club in the world's most popular league, if given the chance?
So did United, by balking at the cost, make an error? I'd never, ever dream of telling Sir Alex, the greatest manager of all time, on what basis to make a decision. But I do wonder whether part of him is regretting that they could not have found a way to keep Tevez. Fair enough if United didn't want to pay this or that sum, but looking beyond the issues of money for a second and it's a no-brainer; he is good enough for United and therefore should have stayed.
Finances at United have been high on the agenda in the past week or so, and, to be honest, a lot of the talk about numbers, balance sheets and bonds just escapes me. But I do know about players. So will they be sitting around talking about bonds and debts? My guess is not at all.
Your focus as a player is on getting yourself into the team, staying there, and winning. That's it. And to be pragmatic, what can any player actually expect they can do, in a meaningful sense? Write a letter to a club owner? Ask to do this or that to the spreadsheets? It is just not realistic – and it's not going to change a thing.
But players will be affected, perhaps, if or when the fans get involved too, demonstrating during games. No player is immune to frustration being vented on the terraces, whatever the reason. But again, having acknowledged any supporter's right to express their views, what exactly could a player do to make a difference? Not a lot. The players' best reaction always has to be to win the game in front of them.
Clearly, a bad financial situation at a failing club would hurt players if they did not get paid. That is when you'd hear dissent, as would be the case at any business, from shop floor to factory. But until then, players should not ponder matters that are beyond their control. They should play football. And what's more, they want to.
Let's not get carried away at Mancini's marvellous start
So City beat United 2-1 in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final. Should we already be hailing new manager Roberto Mancini as the man who led them to great things? For me, the jury is still out. I am not predicting that he'll falter, I just don't think we've yet had the chance to see if he can hack it consistently.
Let's face it, he came in at an ideal time, fixture-wise. Home to Stoke, away to Wolves, then Boro in the Cup, home to Blackburn. These, surely, were winnable games for any manager with his squad. Then came his toughest assignment yet, away against a decent Everton team – and City lost 2-0. Congratulations where they're due for Tuesday's win over United, although even that tie is far from over. But let's wait a few months longer before we see whether Mancini can maintain the great results, week in, week out.
The fee for Andy Cole's column is donated to Alder Hey hospital and sickle cell anaemia research. He works on charitable projects with the sport and media team at law firm Thomas EggarReuse content