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Carlitos – a team player and a good player – not a squad player or a great player

Rich, of Penguin United, has mused over Carlos Tevez’s future.

Carlos Tevez has to go, it’s as simple as that. For all the chants of “Fergie, sign him up”, for all the protestations of love for United, for all the good and crucial goals he has scored, for all the gut-busting charges around the Old Trafford pitch – he has to go. The fans should not only request it, but demand it.

There are two clear reasons for this. Firstly, he is not and never will be good enough to be in United’s first eleven, for reasons I will explain below. Second, he will never be happy being a squad player. Take both of these together, and Kia Joorobchian’s £32m valuation – the most frequently cited reason for United’s reluctance to sign him up – becomes irrelevant.

Not first team material

Let me deal with my more controversial point first. Tevez is a jack-of-all-trades, but he will never be good enough in any single position to hold down a spot in our best eleven. He is a (very) rich man’s John O’Shea, and a poor man’s Wayne Rooney. He is a very good player, but not a world class player.

Up top

He has proved beyond doubt, again and again that he cannot lead the line. There are two fundamental reasons for this. Firstly, he does not have the pace to get in behind any defence. Watch for balls slipped between defenders for him – he will rarely get there first, and when he does it will only be because he has put his body between man and ball in such a way that he has to turn backwards to retain possession. Second, he does not find space between and in behind defenders to receive the ball – he tends to find space in front of defenders by pulling off them to receive the ball, but too often his relish for physical combat allows defenders to stay “touch-tight” to him. This rules out a whole dimension of danger for the opposition, and makes their job a lot easier when it comes to snuffing out our attacking threat.

Contrast this to Rooney when he is asked to play up top (as with Tevez, not his favoured role). He can do everything Tevez does in that position, but he can get in behind and he can pull defenders around in a way that disorientates good defences and creates space for others. When a ball is played in behind for Rooney, he often gets there first and is able to play his first touch across the defender in such a way that the defender is taken out of play unless he decides to being Rooney down. He is also better at finding the gaps between centre halfs to receive threaded passes from the likes of Carrick, Scholes and Giggs. The threat of his pace and his elusiveness make him an entirely different proposition to defend against.

With Berbatov and Rooney

This lack of ability to play up top is precisely why Tevez has been starved of opportunities to partner Berbatov this season. Berba is not an out and out front man, constantly on the last shoulder – he sometimes plays up with the centre halves, and sometimes drops off. When Berba plays with Rooney, they tend to alternate so that if Berba drops off Rooney is pushed further up and vice versa. With Tevez, on the other hand, if Berba drops off Tevez stays put in his natural habitat, leaving us to rely on the wingers or the midfield to push into the centre forward position. Rooney has a lot of similarities with both Berba and Tevez, but he works best with Berba because they can mix and match their roles at will. When either plays with Tevez, they lose that flexibility and therefore their natural game is curtailed.

In the hole

Even when dropped deep, Tevez suffers in comparison to Rooney. They can both shoot well from distance, they can both arrive late into the box, they both participate well in cute passing moves in and around the opposition box. But again, Tevez lacks two aspects of the game that can turn a good “support striker” (if you’ll forgive the use of such an un-English term) into a world class one. First, the ability to create your own space by beating people – whilst Tevez is capable of beating a man, his lack of pace means that his man (particularly full-backs) can catch up with him again. Second, the instinctive distribution which can split or stretch a defence – you don’t see Tevez playing through balls or cross-field passes, but rather taking a couple of touches and laying it into the path of a supporting runner. In counter-attacking situations, he doesn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough, and doesn’t make up for that with the perceptiveness of his pass.

A team player, but not a squad player

Taking into account all of the above, you’re left with a player whose ceiling is “very good” rather than “world class”. We’d still be happy to have him in our squad, because he rarely turns in a bad performance (just rarely great ones). He has the ability to score crucial goals, and his energy can have a very positive effect on the whole side when he comes off the bench. Earlier in the season, the debate was about whether he was worth the amount of money being asked for him. My own view was that he wasn’t (the above analysis of his play is not something I’ve come up with in the last couple of days, but one based on observations from the whole season – particularly the early part when we really needed him to step up), but I could understand why some people took the opposite view.

What has become increasingly clear, in the last few weeks, is that he is not happy being a reserve. He is not prepared to make the trade off which so many recent United stars (Ole, Sheringham, Fletcher, O’Shea, Brown, Park to name but a few) were prepared to make – not playing every week in exchange for being part of the best club in the world and the accompanying silverware. That’s his call, and I don’t criticise him for it, and nor do I imply in any way that he hasn’t given it 100% every time he has stepped on the pitch for us. But if that’s how he feels, then his asking price is irrelevant because there is no place for him at United.

Looking back on it, I think that was the main reason for United not offering a deal until the end of the season – because they needed to know whether Tevez could be happy as a squad player. We got the answer, and so with our warmest thanks and best wishes, it has to be goodbye to Carlitos.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. John Ferry says:

    @sanj you stated “carlos WAS huge last year, carlos SCORED big goals. he is not contributing this season as he did last year” I think you’ve made a good argument there, but we really need to consider the why “he is not contributing this season as he did last year.” I must say I’m a Tevez supporter, but SAF has made up his mind. This is heartbreaking, anytime a United player that has given his heart and soul to the team leaves, it’s a loss, a loss to us all. Winning the EPL and CL would have been nearly impossible without Tevez. As I stated earlier(17:12) How many would have said Tevez has no “pace” last year ? How many would have said Tevez isn’t “first team material” last year ? What has changed ? Yes in Fergie we trust, but fukc this one hurts.

  2. sanj says:

    hahaha, well played cantona. still disagree with you tho.

    i will never, ever downplay his contribution to last season. he was marvelous, he score massive goals, he always gave his all every match. i would love him to stay, but he wants to start, which is impossible in fergie’s current system. i don’t blame carlos for this AT ALL, but in terms of money, it is not worth it. unfortunately, this is a business decision. last year, i would not have said he didn’t have pace and i would have called you crazy if you thought he didn’t belong in the first eleven. however, this season, we have berba, and personally, i prefer berba over tevez. i think his style provides the calm and the ability to hold the ball up. i think the argument ‘he slows down our attack’ makes no sense- many times it is his supposed ‘lazy’ touches and his ability to hold the ball up that allows the pace of our attack to move into better position. if you watch his performance against spurs, you can see how many times he was the fulcrum of our attack- attacks that were by no means ‘slow’.

    still think berba will improve next season, especially with a preseason. he will develop a great partnership with rooney, and his understanding with ronaldo has always been there. if ronaldo stays, i think he and berba will be a lethal combination, especially when ronaldo plays as a striker.

    wasn’t trying to be ‘safe’ or ‘childish’ when i said i trust fergie and you don’t. i am just saying, whatever his decision is, it will be the right one. everyone thought united wouldn’t be able to score when ruud left and look what happened.

    as for my suggested name change, it’s not happening. cheers.

  3. Brooklyn Red says:

    If he had a good run…Like last season? When you sign a 4th striker like Berbs you play under a different pressure, Tevez must have asked himself why pay 30 mil for someone who won a Carling cup yet i’m made to wait even though i helped win a Pl Title and a CL… Somehow i think this has affected his performance as the rest of the team plays with the knowledge that they have contracts….I guess Carlito has been the sacrificial lamb in this tragedy! I feel we have stunted his growth by not affording him the security of a long term deal. I wish we didn’t get involved in this cloak and dagger deal and just signed him long term in the beginning, I’m sure we would have seen a more comfortable CARLITO!!

  4. themarkedman72 says:

    Good read.
    Alot of opinions but FACTS are that rooney has only had one assist from berbatov all season and none going back the other way.
    Guess what that means your opinion may be that they play better together but the facts dont support it.
    FACT is that we won a champions league with Tevez.
    FAct is Tevez makes us a better team. He may not do all the fancy stuff but he makes life hard for defenders and scores important goals.
    Something berbatov has failed to do thus far.
    To suggest fans should demand tevez be passed over is a little bizarre??
    I reckon you are right in saying that he needs to shut it and take a page from ole though…good point. OGS was a model proffesional.

    One major thing I get from all this is we are lucky to be in a position to have the choice. Most clubs would die for a tevez or a berbatov let alone a choice between the two.

  5. supey says:

    “themarkedman72- FAct is Tevez makes us a better team. He may not do all the fancy stuff but he makes life hard for defenders and scores important goals.”

    wow this is an amazing fact. but i think you meant fact as in “opinion” lolss..

  6. Cantona7 says:

    This article is absolutely wrong in my opinion.
    Tevez IS world-class. When on song, he can dictate a game from the hole just as well as Rooney. The fact that he ‘stays up top’ is because he is instructed to do so. I agree though that what we need is an ‘up-top’ type of striker. But this does not mean Tevez is not world-class, nor that he does not deserve the price tag. On the asking price, consider that Berbatov and Rooney were both the same price (actually, Rooney was more if you take inflation into account). Are you truly claiming that Tevez is not worth it? In fact, I would say he is worth more than Berbatov for our team.

  7. Marq says:

    Tevez gives pace to our attack? 2 incidents came to mind during thematch against City.
    1) A perfect through ball to Tevez which Dunne got to first.
    2) A perfect lob ball to Berbatov which he beat Dunne to it and even tried a cheeky nutmeg after that

    btw @ Cantona77
    Like sanj, I think you are a disgrace to use the word “cunt” on fans of the same side. you may have your opinions, we have ours, and to us, Yes Tevez was good enough to be in the first 11 last season, because we did not have a 3rd striker at all. No Welbeck, no Macheda. How bout this for a comparison. Diego Forlan was good enough to be in the first 11 in one of our seasons, does that make him good enough to start now? No. And, I actually think the logic of “If it ain’t broken, don’t change it” does not neccessarily work in football. You stand still, you get overtaken in no time, just ask Chelsea. We also learnt it the hard way after our 99 CL win

  8. Alex Craig says:

    I really cant believe some of the stuff I hear on this forum sometimes.

    Park only plays because he’s Asian – what a ridiculous comment. You think Ferguson after all his success just plays players because they bring in cash! I mean c’mon hes played in a lot of our biggest games this year and the squad has been extremely important. All the players in this squad are ledgends, we are the champions of England, Europe and the World for gods sake.

    Tevez is a grafter and we love to see it, he probably is not worth the 30 million but we will only notice what he gives when he goes but its true he probably is too similar to Rooney to pay that much for. As for Campbell and Manucho – they will never be good enough for the red shirt and Wellbeck and Macheda have a long way to go before they can be considered to play in the first team regularly but lets hope they keep progressing and contributing like they have.

    All in all some of the people on here have been spoilt with success and people need to look at the bigger picture and be a bit more respectful.

  9. Alex Craig says:

    Oh yeah and people who think Ferguson plays people on sentiment and on how much they are worth – ha ha ha absolute joke.

    You really are thick as shit C77

  10. chipper says:

    i love carlitos for his passion on the field… but i have to go sanj. i think berbatov is a much more important addition to our squad now than carlitos… his perfect touch and passing is the perfect compliment to rooneys runs and pace… sory cantona… i have to disagree with ur point that carlitos is better than berba… how many times have we seen carlitos run to a pass and immediately lose the ball with his first touch?? you seldom get that from berba!!! hahahaha

  11. dre says:

    berba may be class, and tevez may be not. but theres one thing u all cant deny. united cant play any kind of decent football with berba leading the front. if ure telling me otherwise, ure shitting urself and u know it.

  12. Marq says:

    Yea, during the Tottenham game. Berbatov was hitting thru ball after thru ball, we were definitely playing shit then

  13. sanj says:

    marq, did you read what he said? we can’t play “any kind of decent football with berba leading the front.” that second half against spurs with 5 goals in 22 minutes wasn’t decent, it was magnificent.

  14. Marq says:

    I was being sacarstic to dre’s comment that we can’t play with Berba leading

  15. sanj says:

    i know… so was i!

  16. Cantona77 says:

    Alex Craig : U must be another one of those who reads stuff and makes cheap remarks by taking things out of context… I never meant that Fergie plays Berbatov because of the price, but rather because he is a new signing that Fergie has lots of hope for and he plays him often because he wants him to make an impact and get used to his new team… Which he has done… And I think u understand that perfectly… U don’t buy a player for 30 million quid and leave him on the bench, that is also important to understand, however I think that u know all that and just wanted to score cheap points, so I’ll leave it at that… And BTW, lovely expression… Please elaborate…

    Marq: Dont take my use of the word cunt that seriously… I have often been in this forum, reading others opinions, and many a time have I seen those kinds of words spread around by people.. Of course it doesn’t make it ok for me to say so though, that u are right about, I guess I just reacted emotionally when I wrote that further up… however, since u had to point out my swearing, I sincerely would like u to point out the lots of other swearing by so many other people in this forum.. Cause if u don’t, then please, fuck off…. :D

  17. Wiggsman says:

    Berba was good against Spurs but who actually changed the game when he came on????

  18. sanj says:

    @ wiggsman- he was the spark, but not directly involved in the buildup to nearly every goal as berba was. if you remember, berba slipped a ball into ronaldo, who one touched it to tevez, and he shot it directly into the keeper. i’m not saying his appearance didn’t inject some life into the team (because he always does), but i don’t think he was the main reason the game changed so drastically…

    “It was a fantastic performance from Berbatov. I don’t think he gave the ball away once. He was our best player in the first-half and in the second he produced some wonderful moments.”

  19. Sahil G says:

    Wow this has gone long…

    Anyway, as for the world class title, neither Tevez nor Berba deserve it, yet. But the main point of this debacle is whether Tevez is worth the money or not? And I would gladly say no…because even if they pay the money, do you really think Tevez will get the number of games he wants to get with Rooney and Berba and Ronny in the side? Simple answer is no. I do want him on the team, because he has the drive and the passion that a United player should have. But he also has the ego and the blabber-mouth that a United player shouldn’t have. Even if he stays, the moment he won’t get games is the moment he’ll cry out again, because that is exactly what he has done this season (admittedly for the lack of a contract).

    If the cost is lowered, then SAF should truly go for Tevez, because I don’t think there are many who would bring his passion to the side. But for that kind of money, if he starts whining again, it will truly be a shame.

  20. corea says:

    We have Ando, Fletch, Park and of course Rooney. We have enough fighters on the field, for me at least.
    Carlos just has to improve his finishing and first touch.
    Yes, he is on loan. He can say whatever he wants, but his words show what he thinks about things. Let’s not judge him until we don’t know all the circumstances. Maybe he knows (i think it’s obvious) better than we do.
    But for me on that kind of form i would take Berba anyday. and just shouldn’t underestimate Berba’s qualities in order to keep Carlos in the club.

  21. Sahil G says:

    I’m totally sold on Berba’s first touch though. It’s mesmerizing how good he is with the ball….but for all his assists, he needs to get on the score sheet more because he’s a striker and that’s what strikers do. In the big games, he always might seem to create a chance for others, but I would also like to see him create a chance for himself and score.

  22. zulf says:

    Great article – love the guy but wouldn’t pay more than 15m (if he was happy to be a squad player).

    Bring in David Villa – now that would be awesome.

  23. bruce thomas says:

    AT LAST! Someone gets it spot on. Now hopefully all the “bleating Tevez work rate” sheep will shut the fuck up.

  24. Marq says:

    Well, Cantona77. Most of the swearing we’ve seen on this site comes in during arguments that got personal, but yours came at a simple quote, so it made it look bad. Understand it has been an emotional period for us, but theres more to come! Anyway, point taken, we would all gladly point out anyone who disrespects our own without valid reason.

    -> corea is spot on. The reason so many of us are angry at Tevez supporters is that you try to undermine Berbatov just to have a reason to keep Tevez, but stats proved otherwise, but many still insist so, ala Benitez. Yes our game may be slower with Berbatov starting, but we still have been winning haven’t we?

    @ wiggsman
    Tevez gave the energy for the spurs game, Berbatov gave the assists. Which was more important?

  25. themarkedman72 says:

    @supey…your right I was trying to get another comment in saying I sound like I am doing an impresontation of a fat spansih waiter but work interfered.
    The fact I was refering to was that we have won a champs league with him and berbatov hasnt won anything yet.
    Also I am of the opinion that we do play better with him however I agree with the article in that you would look at the situation and say otherwise…I wouldnt believe that tevez and rooney could play together but they can…go figure.

  26. parjo says:

    If Tevez has good brain, he won’t go to L’pool, talking about Rafa’s rotation policy.

  27. max says:

    Should never have got rid of him but in the end we had no choice…


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