Richards calls for return of Tevez to help catch United

Argentine striker could end City's goal shortage during the title run-in, claims England defender

Of all the people who might decide the Premier League title race between the two Manchester clubs, what's the chance of it being Carlos Tevez? The Argentine, in his own way one of the most important players in the history of the Mancunian rivalry, is desperately needed back at City, according to Micah Richards.

City dropped behind United on Sunday, losing at Swansea while their rivals beat West Bromwich Albion. They had been top since October, but United have been relentless recently, finally pouncing on City's 1-0 slip. Richards believes that Tevez, who has not played since his famous dug-out disagreement with Roberto Mancini in September, could make the difference.

"I've always been a big fan of Carlos," Richards said of his former captain. "I love him. There were games last season where he carried us on his own and these [Swansea] are the sorts of games he would get a 1-0 win for us. Ultimately it's up to the manager. But I'd love to see him back."

No player has both enthralled and appalled the fans of both United and City in the way that Tevez has over the last five years. His switch from red to blue, the "Welcome to Manchester" poster and his feuding with Gary Neville made up one of the great sub-plots of the recent rivalry.

But this season, Tevez has been on the fringes. As Sergio Aguero, Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko provided an early goal-glut, Tevez could not claim to be as indispensable as he once was during his dispute with the club. City's early ferocity has dimmed, though, and the case for his return has strengthened. As Tevez tries to regain his fitness in training and with the reserves, City must be anxious to have him back.

The big worry is how their away goals have dried up. They scored 23 times in their first six away games, but have scored just twice in the last six. Dzeko, Balotelli and Aguero have all slowed down, and Richards is concerned.

"We have to see why we are not scoring as many goals as we used to," he said. "Teams are now defending better against us than they were at the start of the season when we were scoring four, five or six goals a game. In the last two we haven't hit the back of the net. It's something we have to improve on."

As well as the Premier League title, both Manchester clubs are vying in the Europa League. City lost 1-0 at Sporting Lisbon last Thursday, and Richards said the war on two fronts was difficult.

"It is hard because we are playing Sunday, we're playing Thursday ... we stayed in Portugal until Saturday and didn't get to the hotel until eight o'clock after a two-and-a-half hour journey," Richards explained. "It does take it out of you but we can't moan about it. We've been in Europa League before. We've got more than enough players to cope with the fixtures. But we're not getting the results."

City's run-in looks harder than United's: they still have to travel to Stoke, Arsenal and Newcastle, and host Chelsea and, of course, United in what Richards said is now an "even more massive" derby.

Richards added: "We have 10 games left and it is not over. All we can do is concentrate on what we are doing. We have another tough fixture against Chelsea. That's a game we have to win now. But we have the mental strength to come back. Everyone said last year when we got to the FA Cup final that we wouldn't win as it was 20-odd years since we had won a trophy. But we did it. I think we can still win the title."

Title run-in: next five league games

Manchester United

18 March Wolves (away)
26 March Fulham (home)
2 April Blackburn Rovers (away)
8 April Queen's Park Rangers (home)
11 April Wigan Athletic (away)

Manchester City

21 March Chelsea (home)
24 March Stoke City (away)
31 March Sunderland (home)
8 April Arsenal (away)
11 April West Brom (home)