Defection from reds lights the blue touch paper
Manchester derbies rarely lack spice, and this season's should be a real vindaloo. The game at Old Trafford, scheduled for 19 September, has already been put back a day for live television coverage, when – assuming that City have not signed Wayne Rooney or Rio Ferdinand by then – the central figure will be a chunky little Argentinian described last week as having "divided the city".
The city, but not the City. Carlos Tevez's welcome at Eastlands left him in no doubt of the affection he has already earned simply by becoming the first player to move across town from Old Trafford for 10 years. "I was very happy at the reaction of the fans," he said. "They made me feel very happy and very welcome at the club so I'm really focused now."
This parading of a new acquisition has become an almost weekly occurrence: Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz and now Tevez. Having promised "five or six" new signings, City's manager Mark Hughes hopes there are more such occasions to come, including Emmanuel Adebayor if not John Terry.
Such is the local rivalry that even the arrival of the England captain would mean less to a hardcore City fan than stealing a player United wanted to keep; a player, moreover, for whom they do not even receive a fee.
Tevez himself could not resist criticising Sir Alex Ferguson and United for their belated attempts to make him feel wanted, which will endear him even more to City. He claimed: "Since the Liverpool v Manchester United game in Liverpool, I did not play an important role in any of the important games. In the Champions' League I didn't play, I didn't play in the derby.
"Alex never gave me an explanation for why he took me out of the first XI. It's not like after two years you're suddenly going to be interested in someone in your team.
"I tried several times to speak to him, to express my feelings, but the only thing he would say was, 'Don't worry, don't worry, this is going to change'. But he never gave any justification or explanation.
"My team-mates were the first to know when I wouldn't be playing and they tried several times to convince me to stay and that things would change."
Tevez revealed that he spoke to Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid, although "the only club that really made a serious offer was Manchester City". However as a proud Argentinian with 50 caps for his country, he insists he has nothing to prove and that his own confidence in his ability is in no way affected.
"What happened at United won't have any influence on my playing ability today or tomorrow," he said. "I can sleep very easily every night so I don't feel I have to prove anything."
As to his new club's continuing pursuit of expensive recruits: "It's another sign that City are trying to build a really strong team. That's the promise I had from the coach and the owners and I'm happy that these names might come to this club as well."
Whoever else City may sign up before the end of August, the principal task would appear to be finding the right balance, especially in attack. At the last count Hughes had eight centre-forwards – or was it 10? – so it is now possible to put into practice what he threatened after signing Santa Cruz: "The reality is that some [players] will leave. When I'm able to bring good players in, maybe other players will feel their future lies elsewhere and maybe that's a conversation we need to have once the players are over the line. But I don't weaken my side before I strengthen it."
Strengthened they are; and this, remember, was a team second only to United in goals scored at home last season, if less prolific away. The entertainment factor will remain high. Unfortunately for the neutrals the next step is some work on that defence to minimise the slapstick factor.
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