Mancini moves to stop neighbourly dispute


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The Independent Football

Roberto Mancini moved quickly yesterday to heal any potential rift with Manchester United over Owen Hargreaves' injury claims, insisting his new player must not get ahead of himself as he looks to relaunch his career.

Mancini said that he doesn't believe Manchester United mistreated Hargreaves and that his new player simply got caught up with the adrenalin of his long-awaited return.

Despite this, 30-year-old Hargreaves, who emerged from the wilderness with a goalscoring debut in Wednesday's Carling Cup win over Birmingham, has been told that if his ailing body can stand up to the rigours of games Mancini would have no qualms in selecting him for a potentially explosive Manchester derby next month.

Asked whether Hargreaves might have jumped the gun by claiming that the medical team at Old Trafford had failed to aid his recovery from a persistent tendinitis problem, Mancini said: "Absolutely. He knows better than me. It's important that there is calm about Owen.

"Just because he played and scored a goal it's important that we don't think he can play on Saturday or next week. When we took him, we thought we could have him in the team in a few months and that would be OK. But he has played already.

"For us it's more important to think about the player and his body. If everything is OK with his body, then maybe he can play against United in a few weeks. I don't know the situation and what has happened with United. He knows better than me. I think he played well, he scored a good goal and he moved well.

"For him now it's important to play often and train without problems. The past is the past. He was unlucky as he had three or four injuries. But now it's important for him to see the future. For the Premier League, he needs to play a few more games first as at the moment for him this is just like pre-season.

"In the last six months he has worked hard and hope this has solved his problem. Hopefully, he can be happy in the next year or two years."

Hargreaves will not be involved against Everton today, a side who have enjoyed a fine recent record over Manchester City, having won five out of the last six games. One player who is likely to figure, given City's looming Champions League game against Bayern Munich, is Carlos Tevez.

But the former captain, who failed to engineer a move away from the Etihad Stadium in the summer, has been warned he faces a further demotion down the order.

After he has been forced into playing second fiddle to Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko, Tevez's season is going from bad to worse. He has yet to score, has missed a penalty and has paid the price for being kept on the substitutes' bench by losing his place in the Argentina squad.

An unimpressive performance against Birmingham, where he appeared to be suffering from a loss of confidence, could count against him, with Mario Balotelli stealing a march on his rival.

"Carlos is not 100 per cent fit at the moment," Mancini said. "He needs to play and find some good form. He understands that we have other strikers who played well and are scoring goals. He didn't play the other night like he usually plays, but that's OK. He will get better. But Mario is different. He can play wide like a winger or can play up front. Maybe he has more chance to play [than Tevez]."