Will Mancini forever regret decision?

Man City coach Roberto Mancini has confirmed he will allow Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given to leave Eastlands in search of first-team football. The Italian coach is blessed with having two high-quality goalkeepers to choose from this season, with the experienced Given and England prospect Joe Hart both vying to be Mancini’s first name on the team-sheet.

Hart looks set to become Mancini’s first choice goalkeeper however after being given the nod in Saturday’s opening game of the season against Tottenham Hotspur. Hart repaid his manager’s faith by pulling off a series of top-class saves in a man of the match performance at White Hart Lane. It doesn’t bode well for Given who wants to be playing regularly as he enters the later stages of his career. After making it clear he will not sit on the bench, Given may decide to move on and it looks like Mancini will not stand in his way.

Mancini said: “I hope Shay will stay with us because we are in four competitions but I respect his decision if he wants to leave.”

Given is under contract at City and Mancini seems to have backed down rather easily in giving the player the opportunity to leave. While Mancini is obviously being considerate to Given’s demands, the manager might have chosen to demonstrate his authority by challenging his goalkeeper to stay and win back his jersey. Instead the shot-stopper may look to move on, with both former club Celtic and West Londoners Fulham both interested in the player’s services. Arsenal are also interested in Given but City are unlikely to want to sell to their rivals.

At 34, Given is not heading for the retirement home just yet and could easily play at the highest level for another four years. Instead of allowing his No.1 to leave, Mancini could have allowed Hart to go out on loan for another season. Mancini is reluctant to do this however incase  of injuries. After Given’s injury last term the club had to sign Hungarian international Martin Fulop in an emergency loan deal and Mancini would not want a repeat scenario.

Given was described by Mancini as ‘one of the best five goalkeepers the world’ only a few months ago and would leave big boots to fill in the City dressing room. The former Inter boss may also be concerned about a reoccurrence of the shoulder injury Given sustained against Arsenal in April and obviously now feels it is time to give Hart the chance to stake his claim.

Hart is certainly confident and talented enough to step up as the club’s first choice. The 23-year-old old was voted Birmingham City’s Player of the Year last season, helping the newly-promoted side to a ninth placed league finish. The Shrewsbury-born goalie was also nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and also made the PFA Team of the Year. Hart also looks set to be named as England’s No.1 goalkeeper ahead of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign after Fabio Capello gave him his fourth cap against Hungary last week.

Should Given decide to leave it would leave City short of a top-quality back-up goalkeeper with only Columbian David Gonzalez and former Arsenal player Stuart Taylor to choose from. Hart however will embrace the challenge and has the potential to enjoy the best years of his career as the number one at the City of Manchester Stadium.

Given himself could regret leaving the club should he decide to do so. Given has yet to win a major honour at club level and has a fantastic chance to do so at City. Yet to do this he may have to settle for a place on the bench and may not be content with winning his first trophy at club level this way. And should Hart have a dip in form or get injured then Given would have an opportunity to reclaim his place under Mancini. Arsenal will be monitoring the situation closely however and Given may yet get the chance to prove his Italian manager wrong at The Emirates.

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