columnist Stephen Darwin looks at the situation regarding Carlos
Tevez' future with Manchester United and ponders what may be the next step for
the Argentine international striker.
Manchester United are blessed with an embarrassment of
riches in the strikers department at Old Trafford at present. Carlos Tevez, one
of the most exciting and talented attacking talents in the modern game, has
been forced to play second fiddle to both Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov on
a frustratingly regular basis thus far this season. With the tireless Argentine
limited to sporadic appearances in the Carling Cup, will there be a time when
he says enough is enough in a search for regular first-team football?
So why is it so difficult for Sir Alex to fit in a player
that not only offers his heart and soul with every appearance, but also
provides an abundance of quality whenever he dons the famous red shirt? Well
Dimitar Berbatov has steadily settled into goal scoring form at Old Trafford,
showing glimpses of the unique ability he offers as a tall and imposing yet
surprisingly fleet footed front man that makes him difficult to leave out.
After a less than pulsating start to the season, Wayne Rooney has started to
rediscover the sort of form for club and country that has branded him an almost
irreplaceable part of the team. Throw in Cristiano Ronaldo and you have another
forward thinking starlet that is as dear to Manchester United as oil is to
Saudi Arabia and Ferguson's decision to leave out the former West Ham striker
becomes more and more comprehendible.
Tevez may take light from the fact that he isn't the first
United striker to have been faced with a similar predicament. Most have given
in to the challenge, as we have seen in the past with Diego Forlan, Dwight
Yorke and more recently with Louis Saha. Add Andy Cole to that list and Tevez
could be forgiven for thinking that he would be chasing a lost cause if he vows
to stay on and fight for his place with the Red Devils. Although the recently
retired Cole is adamant that Tevez should continue to stake his claim at the
Theatre of Dreams and not make the same mistake that he did.
Cole, who left Manchester United for Blackburn Rovers in
2001 on his own quest for regular football, told the Manchester Evening News: "I
can understand he might be frustrated, I went through the same, but he is
younger than I was – he is 24 and I was 30."
"I am in awe of Carlos
Tevez; he is a world class striker. If I was him I would stick around – stay and
fight for your place would be my advice. He will get plenty of matches.
"Take it from me, he just needs to bide his
time. I wish I had been more patient in 2001 – I was headstrong in my younger
days. I made some impulsive decisions."
"Some got me to where
I was, but the one to leave United is the only one I regard as a mistake and my
only major regret," Cole added.
The worrying thing for Manchester United and their fans is
that Tevez would instantly command a place in the starting line-up of almost
any other side in world football – and he surely won't wait around
forever. With only two goals to his name
this season, the former Corinthians favourite is clearly lacking in confidence
which could have a detrimental knock-on effect on his chances of leading the
line for his country – something that an undoubtedly patriotic Tevez holds dear
to his heart.
Despite scoring the winner against QPR in midweek, Tevez is
likely to find himself on bench warming duties once again against Stoke on
Saturday, a sorry sight for United fans who fear for his long-term future at
the club. Real Madrid have been linked with a January move for the 24-year-old,
who see him as a direct replacement for the currently sidelined Ruud van
Nistelrooy. So is it time United started to include the Argentine hitman from
the start on a more regular basis this season or will Tevez take the decision
to leave into his own hands to ensure his career doesn't take a sharp downward