Ahead of derby day on Saturday, Jack Pitt-Brooke from the brilliant Manchester City blog, The Lonesome Death of Roy Carroll, has taken time to have a chat with RoM again about their chances of finishing fourth, United’s best player and predictions for the game.
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Yes I’m afraid it has. Gareth Barry’s had a decent season, but our best buy of the summer 2009 arrivals is certainly United fans’ favourite Carlos Tévez. He had a slow start to his career at City with just four goals in his first fifteen games but since 2 December he has scored 24 in 22 appearances, which is astonishingly good. I’m not going to say he is as good as Wayne Rooney but he has the same effect on the team, dragging them along with him and injecting energy and goals into occasionally lifeless performances.
STR: Talking of Rooney and Tevez, they have both just been named in the PFA’s shortlist for Player of the Year. Who do you think deserves it?
J P-B: Wayne Rooney. He’s just been brilliant this year, and not many City fans would have a bad word to say about him. He’s completely cut out those little moments of violence and petulance on the pitch and has supplanted Fernando Torres as the neutrals’ favourite striker in the league I think.
STR: For Tevez to be included in the top four players in the league this season is certainly something for City fans to be proud of though. But what about his interview this week where he claimed that Rooney was better than anyone he’s played with at City, that he didn’t think Hughes should have been sacked, that he didn’t like Mancini’s training methods and that he wishes the club had never put up that poster so many City fans are proud of. What’s that all about?
J P-B: This is a strange one. It’s not particularly surprising that Tévez doesn’t like extra training, or that he was embarrassed by the poster, or that he didn’t want Mark Hughes to be sacked. I agree with him on the poster and the sacking. But it is surprising that he would say this all in public a few days before our biggest game of the season, even more so given club officials tried to gag him this week, presumably in the fear he’d say some inflammatory stuff about United. What it shows is something that City and United fans know very well – that Tévez lives in his own world and opens his mouth without thinking things through first.
STR: I personally think he’s just really, really thick, which I suppose isn’t a rarity where footballers are concerned! Still, he seems to be helping you along to that fourth spot in the league. Do you think you’ll be playing Champions League football next season?
J P-B: We are still the bookies’ favourites and you have got to recognise that we’re the most likely to get it, even after Spurs’ beating Arsenal the other night. But this is City and in those rare seasons when we have anything to play for in ‘squeaky bum time’ we tend to piss it away. So I’m irrationally cautious, trying to convince myself (ludicrously) that we’re underdogs and that it would be a huge surprise if we made it. This is what being a City fan does to you.
STR: And what impact would it have on the club if you finished fourth?
J P-B: It would be huge. Since the takeover we’ve gone after world class players – John Terry, Samuel Eto’o and Kaká most publicly, as well as others on the quiet, and they’ve all decided that all the money in the world doesn’t make up for joining a mid-table club. But if we get Champions League football then we can offer both exorbitant wages and Champions League football, which should help us attract the best. As it happens, I’m not that keen on Terry and Eto’o type signings, but we will certainly be able to buy better. It would also do an awful lot to foster harmony in our squad and unite them under the boss, which would only be a good thing.
STR: I tend to think the big money signings have a disruptive effect. Just think, Chelsea were in the top four before their money, but they only got two years of Premiership success before it all imploded and it has taken them four years to look like favourites again! Regardless, presuming the big spending continues, which areas do you think City need to strengthen?
J P-B: There’s a few areas. We could do with better full-backs – we’ve got three specialist left-backs, two specialist right backs plus a handful of others who can fill in, but none of them are really Champions League quality. So an upgrade would be nice but we don’t need bodies for their own sake there. Another centre-back to compete with Kompany and Lescott – but Jerome Boateng’s coming in July and he’s meant to be solid. I’d like a box to box midfielder but players like Michael Essien don’t grow on trees, and I’d love for Stephen Ireland to recover his form of last season and Michael Johnson to get fit. And up front I did want a new partner for Tévez until recently but Adebayor’s in great form at the moment so he could well keep his spot next year.
J P-B: This is something that keeps me awake at night. It’s no secret that Stephen Ireland was a boyhood United fan, due to the Cork/Cobh Ramblers connection with Roy Keane, nor that Sir Alex is a fan, nor that he has had a fairly disastrous season. From the outside I think he would improve United – he’s a much more credible long-term replacement for Paul Scholes than Anderson is. He’s got the talent and the commitment, though when it comes to maturity and discipline he’s not as good as James Milner who is also meant to be a target. Fortunately, as a blue, I just can’t see us accepting a bid from Old Trafford for him. If Spurs, Villa or Arsenal came in with £12million I think we might think about it. But not United. Unless, of course, Ireland tried to force it. Which would be a real shame as I love him like a brother.
STR: I rate Ireland, I just find the ridiculous cars, granny lies, underpant showing and wig-wearing behaviour totally bizarre. Although I do like his club over country attitude and if he’s good enough, it would be nice to see a player who City fans love like a brother running around in a United shirt… Anyway, if you could take one player from our squad, other than the obvious Rooney, who would it be?
J P-B: Patrice Evra. His bravery, his pace, his relentless shuttling up and down the flank are all exceptionally good. He’s probably the best in the world but choosing between him and Ashley Cole is very marginal. They’re both much better than Wayne Bridge.
STR: Coming to the end now, a win against United would almost certainly mean you had that coveted fourth spot this season. What are you predictions?
J P-B: As I said above, being a City fan means you have to expect the worst when it matters most. But I do think we’ve got a chance. We’re probably in better form than United and while I’m terrified of Wayne Rooney I don’t worry about too much else. I’m confident that we can score against your defence, particularly with Rio Ferdinand a doubt. So I’m predicting a satisfying score draw.
STR: And if you are to get a draw or win, and you are to get your fourth spot, is Roberto Mancini the man to take the club forward even further? Just checking out Wikipedia quickly, he’s lost almost a quarter of the games he’s been in charge for at City.
J P-B: I don’t know. The thing about Mancini is that he has been brought in to perform essentially the job of an international manager – simply motivating and organising a set of players that are in no real sense ‘his.’ He’s done this pretty well but it tells us nothing of his ability to build and mould a team, to buy and sell at the right time – the skills that make Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger so brilliant. I’d love him to stay, spend the Sheikh’s money and take the team forward over the next three years – I’m sick to the teeth of changing managers every 18 months – but I just don’t know if he will.
STR: And the scarf?
J P-B: I do like the scarf – I’ve got my own and will wear it on Saturday. I’d much rather a Manchester City scarf than a Norwich City one.
STR: With City fans welcoming “a human rights abuser of the worst kind” with open arms as your owner, I don’t expect you to understand our battle against the Glazers! Cheers mate, roll on Saturday.