Roberto Mancini has only been in Manchester for a month and he is already proving he is the man for the job. The Italian has added a sense of conviction to the Manchester City side and has succeeded in many of the areas that his predecessor Mark Hughes failed. Carlos Tevez appears a new man, having netted 10 goals in his last 7 games and even misfits Benjani and Roque Santa Cruz have found a new lease of life under the former Inter Milan boss. However, Mancini’s greatest accomplishment so far has to be the rejuvenation of the City defence, and in particular the rebirth of Micah Richards.
Behind Tevez, Richards has been the outstanding performer under Mancini and his performance against Blackburn Rovers on Monday was again, only eclipsed by Tevez. Before Mancini’s arrival Richards had experienced a dip in form and although he was still steadily improving as a player, many had begun to doubt whether he would fulfil the potential he had shown in the early stages of his career.
Still only 21, Richards burst onto the Manchester City scene at the age of 17 under the guidance of Stuart Pearce and quickly cemented his place as a member of the City first team. The youngsters form was so impressive that he was widely tipped as England’s long term replacement to Gary Neville and he gained his first England cap in a friendly against the Netherlands aged just 18 years old.
Richards has recently shown signs of regaining the form that saw so much hype surround him and the 21 year old has admitted that he owes much of this to Mancini, who reinstalled Richards self-belief. Richards said:
“He told me that I was a good player but that if I listened and learned he would turn me into a great player. Those words were really encouraging but I know that it is down to me to work hard. I keep saying it but I am still young. I know I had a dip in form last season but I believe that I have been better this time around and in recent weeks I have done okay. All I am concentrating on at the moment is playing well, winning games and staying in the side when the injured players come back.”
For an example of Richards recent rebirth there is no need to look further than Mondays Premier League encounter with Blackburn. Although Carlos Tevez stole the show with a sensational hat-trick, the pick of the bunch was still Richard’s goal. The defender picked the ball up in his own half and drove at the Blackburn defence who were helpless as the England international passed 5 Rovers players before picking a perfect pass to Benjani who struck the post, only for Richards to tap in the rebound. The right back deserved his luck as he was unselfish in picking the correct pass for the former Portsmouth striker and continued his run to finish the job at the back post.
Richards is just one of the players that Mancini has rejuvenated and the Italian Job is well under way at Eastlands as Manchester City continue their charge up the table. It has not just been the results of late that have impressed but the manner in which City have performed. Whilst they sometimes looked questionable and were often found wanting under Hughes, they now seem efficient and professional under the tutelage of Mancini. It is something that can also be applied to Richards, who not only looks a better player, but is also showing the excitement in his play that gained his reputation as an 18 year old.
A late surge to displace Glen Johnson in South Africa? I wouldn’t rule it out.
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