Jim White

Will Tevez be the new Rodney Marsh?

Jim White

View photo

.

Carlos Tevez - pulled himself off the Man City bench

The news that Paul Scholes is to be offered a new contract by Manchester United, giving him at least another season at the club, will have come as no surprise to anyone who has seen him play since his unexpected comeback last month.

His passing, his control, his vision have been astonishing. As has been his ability, after almost nine months away from the fray, immediately to absorb himself back into the action. His manager is right: where else could he have found instant quality like that in the January transfer window?

Indeed, observing his performance against Liverpool on Saturday must have sent rival Premier League managers scurrying to look down the back of their sofa to see what they too might have lying around, unseen and half-forgotten like a bunch of loose change. None more so than Roberto Mancini, who has suddenly realised that he has on his payroll a world-class forward of energy and drive with a proven Premier League track-record and a substantial point to prove. Certainly the Manchester City fan interviewed by Sky Sports News outside the Etihad Stadium the other morning could see the link.

"If they can have Scholes," she said. "Why shouldn't we have Carlos Tevez back?"

To connect the two may seem fanciful. One was the humble, modest one-club servant who was so reluctant to sever links with his employers he was still hanging around training long after he was meant to have retired. And the other, well now is not the time and place to rehearse precisely the ways in which Tevez has affronted the history and traditions of Manchester City. But Mancini is nothing if not a pragmatist. Sure, he may have said back in the autumn that Tevez would never again play for the club while he was manager. But that was then. This is now, when winning the Premier League looks a sizeably harder task than it did back in the days when the sky blue juggernaut was steamrolling all comers.

What City need right now is an injection of oomph. David Silva, the main creative hub of the team, looks exhausted. It is no surprise. He was magnificent earlier in the year, but now has tired. And ahead of him, the team's principal goal-scorers are simultaneously experiencing the sort of dip in form that comes to all title contenders. From playing like gods, Sergio Aguero, Edin Djeko and Mario Balotelli have been demonstrating increasing levels of fallibility in front of goal. It is fair enough, they are knackered.

You could not legitimately level that accusation at Tevez. The odd game of golf and occasional whinge of self-justification does not take it out of a man in quite the same way. He knows his way around City, he knows how to unpick Premier League defences. And since the club are already paying him vast sums of money anyway, he might as well do those things in service of their cause.

Football-wise it is the most logical thing to do: put away pride and invite him back. Maybe they should get out the old "welcome to Manchester" poster at the Etihad. After all, he has not exactly been a regular visitor to the Trafford Centre in the intervening time. Get him back and get him playing. Why not?

Except reading the message boards on the Manchester City fan sites, the sense among the diehard supporters is not as unequivocal as that woman interviewed on Sky. This is not quite the same as bringing back Scholesy, who slipped back into the normal running of things so unobtrusively, no one noticed he was there until his name appeared on the team sheet for United's FA Cup tie at City. Nor is it even a re-run of the successful return of Thierry Henry at Arsenal, when a much more sizeable ego was successfully accommodated into the dressing room. The name that keeps occurring in City circles in connection with Tevez returning is a much older one, a name from City's less than glorious past, a name that in many ways is synonymous at City with the start of decline: Rodney Marsh.

In March 1972, with City confidently ensconced at the head of the table, Marsh was bought by manager Malcolm Allison from Queens Park Rangers to give the title bid a final supercharge. It didn't work out like that. Finding a way to accommodate him successfully undermined the carefully constructed team spirit of the side. There just wasn't the space in the dressing room for his enormous self-esteem. City slumped, the title went to Derby and Manchester's other club has not been as close to the finishing line since. Until this season.

In the subsequent years, Marsh's culpability has become part of the folklore at City. While Marsh himself has spent the intervening 40 years vehemently denying it was the case, he has long been dismissed as the man who cost them the championship. And with that, propelled them into a slump from which they did not start to recover until the men from Abu Dhabi came calling.

The Marsh episode stained City's psyche. And the fear for some of the fans is that, whatever the public whitewash which has paved the way for Tevez's return, the psychological damage he wrought will not be so easily dismissed. Tevez is a player City certainly could use. Whether he is the character they need we will learn over the next few weeks. One thing is for sure: it won't be as easy as Scholes's re-admittance into the fold down the road.

View comments (73)