x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Carlos Tevez's strike did not surprise former teammate Edwin Van der Sar

The ex-Manchester United goalkeeper thinks the Argentine forward may come back to haunt his old side in Monday's derby.

Carlos Tevez, left, missed most of the season for Manchester City before returning to net four times in his last three games. Jamie McDonald / Getty Images
Carlos Tevez, left, missed most of the season for Manchester City before returning to net four times in his last three games. Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

Edwin van der Sar has said he was not surprised when Carlos Tevez went on strike earlier this season and believes it was not out of character for the Manchester City forward.

The pair were Manchester United teammates for two seasons before Tevez moved to the Etihad Stadium in 2009 and Van der Sar was not shocked when the Argentine refused to warm up, or come on as a substitute, against Bayern Munich in September.

Tevez returned to the City team last month and is set to start against his former club in Monday's Manchester derby, with Van der Sar acknowledging the striker could win Roberto Mancini's side the Barclays Premier League title.

But his stop-start season is most notable for events in the Allianz Arena and Tevez's subsequent self-imposed exile in Argentina.

"That is within his character," said Van der Sar, who retired as United's goalkeeper last season.

"He is quite an emotional guy - some of the South Americans are - and with Mancini being from Italy, it did not surprise me.

"I would not have done that, but everyone is different. Maybe it is lucky for United that he has been missing but it could be that he is coming to bite us in the back. You never know."

Sir Alex Ferguson, the United manager, is also wary of the Old Trafford old boy.

"He scored a hat-trick [against Norwich City]," Ferguson said. "That is an impact. We will just have to wait and see what he does on Monday."

Van der Sar conceded that Tevez's controversial move helped convince him that City were a genuine threat to United.

He said: "Initially you are sceptical but at a certain point you think 'they are gelling together, that is a good acquisition'.

"I was a little bit surprised Carlos went to City. Maybe he wanted to make a statement to United. He had an unbelievable first year at City."

It helped establish City as major rivals to United. "It has been quite a steady rise," said Van der Sar, who felt that last season's FA Cup semi-final win for City over United may have been one of the turning points.

"They have changed some coaches and got in some more players. It looks they have found the right formula, if they don't win it this year, it will be next year."

In the process, City have overhauled United's other major rivals. "Traditionally Liverpool was the more important game [for United] but as Sir Alex said, that shifted," Van der Sar said. "Liverpool diminished in the league with the rise of City."

The Dutchman's six-season spell in the United goal ended last summer after 266 appearances and four titles.

The first was secured at the Etihad Stadium in May 2007.

Yet United's pursuit of glory was endangered when, trying to protect a 1-0 lead, they conceded a penalty. But Van der Sar denied Darius Vassell and United were able to celebrate.

"For myself, it was great," the 41 year old said. "That was a save that gave us the two extra points to stay in front of Chelsea."

And yet as Van der Sar reflects on the beaten side five years ago, he underlines why Monday's meeting has become a Mancunian affair with huge consequences and global interest.

"The quality of the City team that day was not good," he said. "Five years ago, it was a derby and that was about it. Now you have got so much more at stake."

It may come down to the men guarding the visitors' goals. When Van der Sar retired, Ferguson skipped a generation to sign De Gea, then 20 as his replacement. After a troubled start, the veteran believes his successor is improving.

"There are some goals he could have done better with but he is a quick learner," the Dutchman said.

"It is always very hard especially when there is a different league, a different mentality and a different football approach.

"But he has got quick reflexes, he is good with the ball at his feet and he looks a bit like me.

"The quality of the saves he has made in the last three or four months has helped them get back in the title race."

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