Carlos Tevez adds to confusion of Manchester City's on-off Premier League title chase
Norwich City 1 Manchester City 6
If only Manchester City were a normal club, at which normal rules applied, normal day-to-day duties were carried out in a calm and harmonious manner and normal service was resumed on Monday mornings after a storming 6-1 victory at the weekend. Normality, stability, key factors of success. If only...
Yet City remain a conundrum, a goldfish bowl of gossip, rumour and innuendo in which the bizarre is the norm. And it is why this morning, after a ruthless dismantling of Norwich City on Saturday, no one is any the wiser as to whether they can overhaul Manchester United to win the Premier League title.
Nor whether they will retain the services of Carlos Tevez, their much-vaunted but troubled striker, next season. His clinically dispatched hat- trick at Carrow Road again proved his multi-talented worth, and should have only enhanced the will to keep him at the Etihad Stadium, but who knows?
Certainly not Roberto Mancini, the ever-perplexing City manager. "I don't know, I don't know this," he said. "It depends. Now, I think that it is important that we think about the next four games. After, at the end of the season, we will see what can happen with all the players."
And if the Italian man of mystery is not sure what is happening to one of his most valuable assets, why should he believe that City can dethrone their cross-town rivals either – even if the gap, on Saturday, had closed to just two points. "It is impossible, the race is finished," Mancini said. "It is too late for us."
Nigel de Jong, the City midfielder, warmed to the downbeat theme. "No, he is not mucking you around," De Jong told disbelieving reporters desperately searching for the "We can stuff United" angle. "Everyone knows that it will be hard but you have to be a realist as well. At this stage of the season, I can't see United being scared about us."
So no up-and-at-'em war cry from Mancini or De Jong, little apparent joy at the spectacular six-goal salvo at Carrow Road. What a depressing place the City training ground must be today. Perhaps all will change and spirits will soar shortly before the potentially conclusive and explosive City-United duel at the Etihad on 30 April.
Wherever Tevez's future lies, the partnership with Sergio Aguero, his fellow Argentine, proved impossible for Norwich to counter. Making only his second start since his self-imposed six-month exile, Tevez did much of the dirty work, foraging deep into midfield for possession.
But his finishing was exquisite, too – a swirling 20-yard shot past John Ruddy, the bewildered Norwich goalkeeper, a follow-up header after Ruddy had blocked Yaya Touré's drive and a tap-in after latching on to Ryan Bennett's errant backpass. Cue a swing-of-the-golf-club celebration, mimicking his preferred pastime during his generously afforded time off in Buenos Aires.
Aguero provided more silky skills, complementing his compatriot's bullocking runs, but also showed a keen eye for the target by thundering a shot past Ruddy from Tevez's clever backheel and curling in another delightful effort after cutting inside Elliott Bennett. Adam Johnson completed the rout.
De Jong's first-hand view of the Tevez-Aguero combo left him breathless. "It is just a joy to watch," the Dutchman said. "If you play behind them, you see how they play together and move together. It really is just a joy to see, I think, for every football player."
Perhaps not for the befuddled Norwich players, whose resilience had kept them in the hunt for 70 minutes. Although 2-0 down after a frantic ebb-and-flow first half, Andrew Surman gave them hope when he capitalised on Joe Hart's poor punch. Only later, the home defences finally worn down, did the dam burst.
"We were in the game up until that last 20-minute period," Surman said. "But if you don't take your chances against City, that's what they can do. They have players like Tevez and Aguero who can score out of nothing. They hit you on the break and their finishing was devastating."
Norwich should not be devastated or downhearted. They have offered a refreshing presence in the Premier League this season, a normal club going about its business in a normal manner. At City, on and off the pitch, the intrigue is ceaseless.
Norwich: RUDDY 5/10, RMARTIN 5, RBENNETT 4, WARD 5, DRURY 5, E BENNETT 5, JOHNSON 5, HOWSON, 6, PILKINGTON 5, HOLT 6, WILBRAHAM 5
Man City: HART 7, CLICHY 7, LESCOTT 7, KOMPANY 7, ZABALETA 7, NASRI 7, BARRY 7, DE JONG 7, SILVA 7, TEVEZ 9, AGUERO 8
Scorers: Norwich Surman 51. Man City Tevez 18, 73, 80, Aguero 27, 75, Johnson 90. Subs: Norwich Hoolahan 5 (Johnson, h-t), Surman 5 (Pilkington, h-t), Morison 5 (Wilbraham, 68). Man City YTouré 6 (Nasri, 63), Johnson (Silva, 75), Richards (Tevez, 81).Booked: Norwich R Bennett. Man City Nasri, Tevez. Man of the match Tevez. Match rating 8/10. Possession: Norwich 49% Man City 51%. Attempts on target: Norwich 8 Man City 17.
Referee C Foy (Merseyside). Attendance 26,812.
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