x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Winds of change swirling around Manchester City

Carlos Tevez and others may follow manager Roberto Mancini out door at Manchester City, Richard Jolly reports from Etihad Stadium.

A Roberto Mancini banner is displayed by fans at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Paul Thomas / Getty Images
A Roberto Mancini banner is displayed by fans at Etihad Stadium on Sunday. Paul Thomas / Getty Images

The ovation was prolonged and generous, the sense that Manchester City were waving goodbye to a leader who had ended their long wait, pronounced. Roberto Mancini was nowhere to be seen – though his name was often chorused – but Carlos Tevez, too, could be taking his leave. The applause reflected his contribution to City over four years, not 50 minutes on Sunday.

The Argentine was the first City captain since the 1960s to win the FA Cup; Tony Book, his predecessor, was at the Etihad Stadium as honorary president and no doubt will be again next year.

It is less certain they will see Tevez again.

Famously brought in from Manchester United while a huge billboard proclaimed "Welcome to Manchester", this seemed something different: Goodbye to Manchester.

"I think that was just his appreciation to the crowd," said caretaker manager Brian Kidd. Others were left with a different impression.

One era ended with Mancini's firing last Monday and others, too, may be drawing to a close. There are careers at a crossroads. As City prepare to appoint Manuel Pellegrini as coach, they seem set for an expensive overhaul of the squad.

When the Etihad Stadium stages its next game, in August, the season-ticket holders could be watching Isco, Fernandinho and Edinson Cavani. If that is a mouth-watering prospect, there is nonetheless sadness about the sense that their title-winning team, the men who ensured that last season's final home game was the greatest day in City's history, could be broken up.

One squad member, Nigel de Jong, has already left. Another, Kolo Toure, was denied a valedictory appearance by injury.

Edin Dzeko is likely to leave, but apart from setting up Jack Rodwell's first goal, the great enigma of the forward line was anonymous.

His friend, Aleksandar Kolarov, did feature and was jeered by a section of the support amid allegations that he swore at them. If it was his send-off, it was an unhappy one. Changes are likely to go beyond that, however, and under the interim management of Kidd, City are in a state of flux.

Minus Mancini, City lacked direction. In some respects, it was little wonder. With second place secured, they had nothing to play for.

The crowd were focused on their former manager, chanting Mancini's name at regular intervals.

"I understand the cheers for the boss," Kidd said. "He would have been disappointed if there wasn't, for what he did here. It's been an emotional week."

For some, an inconsequential game was nevertheless an emotional occasion. In each stand, there were banners thanking the Italian coach for his service. Above the halfway line was a solitary Chilean flag, an indirect reference to Pellegrini, the Malaga coach from South America who expected to replace Mancini.

His initial tasks, therefore, include persuading the Mancini diehards that there is life after their Italian idol. Kidd, though claiming ignorance of the Italian's successor, is convinced the supporters will back him.

"It's their community, their club – I know they will respond, because they have done from the year dot," he said. "They have been through some tough times and stayed with the club – they are renowned for that."

If Mancini as manager was criticised for not focusing on the future enough, there was at least the sense that there might be long-term benefits from Jack Rodwell's recruitment.

Injured for much of his first year at the club, the midfielder belatedly opened his account with two superbly taken goals, one after Dzeko set up him and the other when Yaya Toure released the galloping Englishman with a pinpoint pass.

The problem for Kidd was that Norwich scored three. Anthony Pilkington placed a shot beyond Joe Hart after Wes Hoolahan had picked him out. Grant Holt sidefooted in at the far post when found by Robert Snodgrass after a terrific move and Jonny Howson concluded a superb solo run with an excellent finish.

It made for a marked contrast with the final day of last season. Then, too, a City match finished 3-2. The difference was that it sealed their first league title in 44 years. This clinched Norwich's highest league finish since 1993, but had precious little importance, otherwise.

"I am absolutely delighted with that," said Norwich manager Chris Hughton, surveying his side in 11th place.

If second feels unsatisfactory to City, Kidd said: "We fell a little bit short of the standards we set last season."


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