Carlos Tevez and Robert Mancini are publicly disagreeing again – but this time the manager is unlikely to mind. Mancini has been insisting that Manchester City's title hopes are over but Tevez is adamant that Manchester United will be overtaken, which, you suspect, is exactly what the Italian wants his players to believe regardless of his own purported scepticism. "We just need to continue to play the way we are and we will arrive at the top," said Tevez.
So Tevez and Mancini are actually in tune with each other and the benefits of that were as obvious at Carrow Road as they had been three days previously when Tevez capped his first start in seven months with a goal in the 4-0 destruction of West Bromwich Albion. Against Norwich City he scored a hat-trick and it was notable that his team-mates seemed genuinely joyful as they celebrated with him. There does not appear to be any resentment in the dressing room over the feud that led to Tevez spending much of the season contesting disciplinary action with his employers and pottering around Argentinian golf courses while his team-mates fought for the title. "There is no problem, it's in the past," said Mancini.
Tevez, showing a level of self-awareness and maturity that has not always been seen, has thanked City for the warmth of their welcome back. "I am very happy that I played very well [against Norwich] but the most important thing is that I want to say thank you to my colleagues for all the support they have given me since I arrived," said the 28-year-old. "It wasn't easy coming back to training and to play but they have given me a lot of support and the technical staff have been very good to me too. I really appreciate everyone's help."
Tevez explained that the imaginary golf swing he performed after his third goal at Carrow Road was a self-deprecating gesture intended to demonstrate that his dispute belongs in the past. "It was an important goal, not just for me but it was important for the people, for the club and for the fans, for my colleagues, for Roberto," he said. "We all went through some difficult times. That's why I celebrated the way I did because I have my feet on the floor and I am happy for everyone."
It remains to be seen whether Tevez's return was well timed or has come too late. What will never be known is where City would be now in the table if Tevez and Mancini had not fallen out. Mancini said after the Norwich game that it was "simplistic" to suggest that City would be top if that had been the case but the fluency of Tevez's interaction with his compatriot Sergio Agüero gave reason to be believe otherwise. "No matter how you wrap it up they are top players and they seem to have a good understanding with each other," said the Norwich manager, Paul Lambert, whose side played well and scored a good goal through Andrew Surman but could not cope with the Argentinian duo.
Agüero scored a pair of superb goals to complement Tevez's hat-trick and made a classy contribution to City's sixth, picking out Gaël Clichy before the full-back pulled the ball back for Adam Johnson to convert from close range.
The understanding between Tevez and Agüero has not seemed obvious to their national team managers over the years; the pair have started together once for Argentina. Nor was it obvious in their one start alongside each other for City before Tevez went into exile. Although Agüero scored a hat-trick against Wigan Athletic last September, two of the goals came after Tevez was substituted following a lacklustre display in which he missed a penalty. That day it was Agüero's on-field relationship with David Silva that thrilled.
Silva was prominent again at Norwich and the way in which he, Tevez and Aguero interacted bore similarities to the performances of Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney when that trio led Manchester United to the title in 2008, their invention and elusive movement confounding opponents.
Tevez's movement, along with his dynamism, are what enables him to dovetail differently with Agüero from the way to which the latter links up with Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli. Those strikers have played their part too this season – Tevez was nowhere to be seen, for instance, when City recorded two of their best wins of the campaign, the 6-1 victory at Old Trafford and the 5-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur. But there have been times in recent months when Agüero, Balotelli and Dzeko have failed to fire and it would surely have been useful to be able to call on Tevez for a different approach.