Will Mancini’s scarf bring magic?
LONDON: Roberto Mancini’s newfound popularity with Manchester City fans gets its toughest test yet today when the coach takes his team to Everton in the Premier League.
Mancini’s status is such that, with four straight wins following his arrival, City say their club shops have responded to demand from fans and started selling replicas of the traditional blue-and-white striped scarf he wears while walking the touchline.
City’s fans are renowned for their loyalty, sticking with the club even when it dropped into the third tier a decade ago, but fans’ perception of Mancini’s abilities may be readjusted should the team he inherited from Mark Hughes, stumble at Goodison Park.
Everton are slowly recovering from a poor start to the season and last week’s 2-2 draw at in-form Arsenal stretched their unbeaten run to five matches.
Carlos Tevez has attracted much of the attention with seven goals in five matches, including a hat trick in Monday’s 4-1 win over Blackburn that lifted City into the top four, but it is the defence that could be tested on Saturday.
Defender Dedryck Boyata, a City trainee who has played his first two matches for the first team since Mancini arrived, said the manager has been focusing hard on the rearguard.
“We’ve been working more on team shape and working in teams,” the 19-year-old said. “Defenders work with defenders, midfielders with midfielders and so on and we also concentrate more on tactics. And it’s working so far.”
Under Mancini, City have conceded only one goal in four matches and scored 10.
United States midfielder Landon Donovan could make his home debut for Everton after making the first appearance of his tenure on loan from Major League Soccer against Arsenal.
“I am very excited about playing at Goodison,” Donovan said. “Seeing how the fans respond and seeing their passion, I loved that.”
Donovan managed 70 minutes against Arsenal and is hoping to play the full match against a City side still in contention for the Premier League title.
“When I play a full game I am more effec- tive,” Donovan said. “I think I could have worn them down a little more but hopefully this weekend we will be able to do that against Manchester City.”
Any slip up by City could give Tottenham the chance to climb back into the top four. Spurs host a Hull side they beat 5-1 this season.
Dean Marney is included in Hull’s squad and could face his former club, but fellow midfielder Jimmy Bullard is out with a knee injury and forward Daniel Cousin is at the African Cup of Nations with Gabon.
Also today, leader Chelsea host Sunderland and second-place Manchester United host Burnley.
United trail Chelsea by a point and should be confident of beating a team that lost its manager to Bolton last week, but United have lost two and drawn one of their past four Premier League matches and lost 1-0 to newly promoted Burnley in August.
United will be without Scotland midfielder Darren Fletcher because of suspension, while England internationals Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves are still not fit to play.
But goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar could be fit to return after two months out.
“It depends how Edwin feels but he has been training very well,” Ferguson said.
Blackburn host Fulham, Portsmouth are at home against Birmingham, Stoke entertain Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers play Wigan at home in today’s other matches.
Arsenal are at Bolton tomorrow, when Aston Villa host West Ham.
Robert Mancini and his ‘super scarf’