MANCHESTER // If ever a month illustrated the importance of goal-scorers, it was January.
Five forwards cost a combined £160 million (Dh944m) but while Manchester City spent a portion of that on Edin Dzeko, few at Eastlands needed any reminders of the significance of scorers. Not while Carlos Tevez is around.
The Argentine turned 27 in style yesterday. A first-half hat-trick defeated West Bromwich Albion and meant he reached two landmarks at the same time; in the first week of February, he has managed that milestone for any attacker: 20 goals for the season.
Two of Tevez's goals came from the penalty spot, but that should not detract from his display.
A cushioned volley, which hit the post in the fourth minute, meant he was inches from scoring twice in open play; a lovely pass to David Silva, who was denied by the overworked Boaz Myhill, was a sign the finisher is also capable of creation.
"Another wonderful, fantastic performance from Carlos," said the assistant manager, Brian Kidd.
So, indeed, it was from his colleagues in the first half. There are occasions when City can be deemed functional; this was not one of them. Their second goal was an example of Albion being scythed apart with elegant simplicity.
Tevez exchanged passes with Silva with the Spaniard weighting and placing his return ball to perfection. The Argentine accelerated on to it, deceived Jonas Olsson with his turn and defeated Myhill with his finish.
That was sandwiched by Tevez's two penalty kicks, converted with the assurance of an expert. Actually, the Argentine had missed twice in succession from the spot. It is to Mancini's credit that there was no knee-jerk reaction. Tevez retained the responsibility and vindicated his manager.
Indeed, Mancini was justified in a second judgement call. Aleksandar Kolarov exchanged his usual duties at left-back for a more advanced role in the midfield and flourished.
The Serb struck the crossbar with a rocket of a shot - Myhill applying a glancing, but vital, touch - and helped earn both penalties. He was held back by Steven Reid for the first, while his cross hit Jerome Thomas's hand for the second.
"We gifted them two goals," admitted Roberto di Matteo, the crestfallen West Brom manager.
His side created chances but it was a rehabilitative afternoon for Joe Hart. Recent errors have put the goalkeeper's position under scrutiny, but he excelled, denying Chris Brunt, Olsson, James Morrison and Nicky Shorey.
Their goalkeeper performed, but City's goalscorer did still better.