Carlos Tevez on target as he revels in captain's role to see off Wigan
Wigan Athletic 0 - Manchester City 2: It has been hard to deduce at times in the past 12 months, just how much the Argentine Carlos Tevez has wanted to be at Manchester City, and that odd, unheralded decision to make him captain seemed like an exercise in keeping a prime asset happy. It was good work, given how integral to City's progress he still is, for all the £130m which has been spent this summer.
"In this moment he isn't in 100 per cent of form but this goal can help him," Roberto Mancini said last night. "The captaincy is a good thing for him; he is an important player who can improve as captain and help the team more."
The £26m spent on David Silva was intended to bring a player who would operate in the hole and supply Tevez, though for now Mancini is still waiting for that to happen, and neither does Yaya Touré exude the air of one of world's most handsomely paid players, 11 weeks into his English career. The performance here was considerably less momentous that the result was, it being City's first win in six attempts at Premier League level at Wigan, where they last won at the old Springfield Park in League One 12 years back.
Mancini, who pointed out that City had 33 shots on goal in their previous two league games combined, admitted that the side "must improve some situations" though in his defence was the quality of the pitch on a day of biblical Lancashire weather. Tevez took some thumping challenges – two eye-watering ones from Steve Gohouri and Charles N'Zogbia in the space of three minutes – but hauled himself up and splashed on.
His sublime goal – taking his tally against Wigan to six in the last seven for both Manchester teams – served a reminder of United's folly in releasing him. Joe Hart's clearance skimmed off the top of Mohamed Diame's head and escaped Antolin Alcaraz before Tevez fastened onto it, clipping expertly over Ali Al-Habsi. The Argentine's assist for City's second – and Toure's first for the club – after Manuel Figueroa and then Gohouri had flapped with consecutive defensive headers, was equally fine.
Roberto Martinez passed up the chance to dwell on the either the state of the pitch or several choice tackles from Nigel de Jong, which could have seen him dismissed. Instead, he lamented defensive lapses which do not belong in the top flight. "From time to time we come up with this softness in our defensive play and it really lets us down and puts games out of our reach,"he said.
But Hart was never troubled, and the same cannot be said for a desperately discontented Shay Given, who declared in an interview yesterday that he could play "like Clark Kent" in training, for all the good it would do his chances of supplanting the Englishman between the sticks.
But the manager insisted Given had the chance to leave before the transfer window closed, yet had declined it. "I told him this situation before the transfer market finished," Mancini said. "I told him, 'Shay, you can choose. I hope you stay here but I respect your decision – if you want to leave you can'. He decided to stay here and until January he must stay here."
The Irishman was dismayed not at least to get a chance in the Europa League at Salzburg last Thursday. "I never said to Shay that he would play on Thursday," retorted Mancini, who may decide to play Given in the Carling Cup at West Bromwich on Wednesday.
These kinds of storm – real and imagined – are such a part of the landscape at City that Mancini has started rebutting them with jokes. Asked about reports of his "fight" with Emmanuel Adebayor after the manager had questioned the Togolese striker's claim he was injured, Mancini said: "Yeah, we fight, me and him in the dressing room for an hour, but I win because I don't have any scars!" It was Tevez who took the blows, and delivered them, yesterday.
Wigan Athletic (4-3-3): Al Habsi; Boyce (Stam, 65) Gohouri, Alcaraz, Figueroa; McCarthy. Thomas, Diame (Watson, 86); N'Zogbia (Moses, 86) Di Santo, Rodallega. Substitutes not used Kirkland (gk), Watson, Boselli, Moses, S Caldwell, Gomez, Stam.
Manchester City (4-1-4-1): Hart; Richards, K Touré, Kompany, Zabaleta; De Jong; Silva (A Johnson, 72) Y Toure (Jo, 75), Barry, Milner; Tevez (Wright-Phillips, 88). Substitutes not used Given (gk), Boyata, Vieira, Santa Cruz.
Booked De Jong.
Man of the match Tevez
Possession Wigan 44% Man City 56%.
Shots on target Wigan 3, Man City 5
Referee L Probert (Glouc) Attendance 15,525
Match rating 6/10.