Manchester City yesterday insisted that Owen Hargreaves is continuing his progress to a full top-flight role, despite a calf injury which will prevent him appearing at Wolves tonight in the Carling Cup, the tournament where he signalled his comeback so spectacularly in last month's third round.
Roberto Mancini's assistant, David Platt, said that the kick on the calf which has prevented Hargreaves training for the past three or four days was "nothing... a little niggle, not [him] breaking down" and that he would be back on the Carrington training pitches today, though also unavailable for the home league meeting with Mick McCarthy's side on Saturday.
"If [he] was 'breaking down' we'd be talking about him being out for three or four weeks," said Platt, responding to a question in which that term was used. "We knew what we were doing in the summer [when City signed him on a one-year deal.] He's been fine. He came in on 1 September and he's been off the training pitch five days in seven weeks. There are other people who have been off longer. James Milner was off the pitch with his ribs, so was Nigel de Jong. Rather than talking about what's happened in the last three years and what's been stopping him, he's now a Manchester City player and we should look at it from when he's been here."
The England international has surprised City with his levels of fitness after his history of knee troubles which restricted his appearances during his time at Manchester United.
Adam Johnson is the international who will certainly get a start at Molineux tonight as Mancini seeks to put the euphoria of the 6-1 derby win against Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday behind him. Mancini kept returning last season to the issue of the Black Country Carling Cup defeat, at West Bromwich, which he saw as evidence of how his club would not be able to juggle Champions League and domestic competition this season with that squad. With due respect to Greg Cunningham, John Guidetti, Javan Vidal and Ben Mee, the squad is a different one now and City have the resources to look like a club in pursuit of four trophies.
"We weren't going into that [West Bromwich] game with the same quality we are going in with tomorrow night," Platt said. "With the team we put out then there was a bigger risk. We weren't going into game against West Brom saying we were better, but [Roberto] was disappointed as he felt we should have won that game. There was an anger and disappointment in him [which] surprised me."
Nedum Onuoha, Wayne Bridge, Pablo Zabaleta and Stefan Savic can expect starts tonight, as well as Kolo Touré. Platt brushed off quotes in which Touré, who had to be disciplined by City for failing a drugs test, suggested he was interested in playing for the Qatari-backed Paris St-Germain.
With Umbro producing more Mario Balotelli 'Why is it always me?' T-shirts after the first batch of replicas of the garment, displayed by the player when he scored on Sunday, sold out within hours, Platt's main reflections on the Old Trafford derby centred on the Italian. "What's happened this season is there is a consistency about him," Platt said. "Those niggles seem to have bypassed him. It was his concentration levels which were the problem, but that is there now. I don't think he is a difficult player to manage. He will lose concentration but you can snap him out of that. He will be down for 10 seconds and then he is out of it. He is an enigma."Reuse content