Should Manchester City lose their battle to keep Carlos Tevez, the ease with which they brushed aside West Ham United demonstrated that they might be able to cope very nicely indeed without their top-scoring talisman.
With Tevez suspended – after picking up a fifth yellow card against Bolton last week – it looked uncertain where City's goals would come from so Roberto Mancini opted for the temperamental Mario Balotelli up front on his own. The Italian has only two league goals to his name this season, though, in contrast to the Argentine's 10. That probably pushed Mancini to deploy three attacking midfielders, whose fluidity of movement confounded struggling West Ham, who remain at the foot of the table.
This was epitomised by substitute Adam Johnson's goal in the 81st minute that put City three ahead. The winger ran from the right flank and through the home defence to score.
Mancini left the match straight after the final whistle to visit his father in Italy, so Brian Kidd, the Manchester City No 2, who was assistant manager to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, was left to do the post-match talking and he claimed there were similarities between the Scot and the Italian. "Mancini is a winner, he is meticulous in his work and his tactics," Kidd said.
"The work he puts in on the training ground is fantastic to watch. He was disappointed we lost the goal at the end; he is not satisfied. Everyone knows what Sir Alex has done in English football and though he is 68 his passion and his will to win is not diminishing. But the boss here is a winner too and Manchester City are lucky to have him. Now I have seen him work, I am pleased you can see signs of this when we play games."
Mancini tried something different by playing Yaya Touré in one of the three attacking midfield positions, and it paid dividends. The midfielder, who never stepped outside his holding role while at Barcelona, was just inside the box when he hit an unstoppable shot to put his side ahead. Touré then forced City's second, the ball ricocheting off the post and Robert Green's back before going in.
Kidd also drew comparisons to United's title-winning sides that he worked with when asked if City displayed similarities. "Yes, without a doubt," he said. Like their manager, the players were not happy about conceding an 89th-minute header from Tomkins. "They are hurting because they gave a goal away," Kidd added. "Now they are challenging their own performances, which is brilliant. Once you get that team spirit in the dressing room, you have got a chance."
Scorers: West Ham Tomkins 89; Manchester City Y Touré 30, Green 73 og, A Johnson 81. Substitutes: West Ham Cole (Barrera, 71), Dyer (Stanislas, 65), Hines (Piquionne, 85); Unused Stech (gk), Reid, Boa Morte, Kovac. Man City Milner (Silva, 86), A Johnson (Balotelli, 61); Unused Given (gk), Richards, Lescott, Vieira, Santa Cruz.
Booked: West Ham Ben Haim; Man City Zabaleta, De Jong, Balotelli.
Man of the match Y Touré Match rating 7/10. Possession West Ham 51% Man City 49%.
Shots on target West Ham 3 Man City 7.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire). Attendance 32,813.Reuse content