Mancini hails unique De Jong

The 26-year-old combative Dutchman has not featured for City since

the four-goal defeat of Swansea a month ago. It was anticipated De

Jong would only be sidelined for a couple of weeks at the most with

a bruised foot. However, as the games have gone by, the former

Hamburg midfielder has seemed no closer to re-appearing. Happily

though, it seems his exile is nearing an end and he could even be

involved in Tuesday’s crucial Champions League encounter with

Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. “I don’t know what has happened

with Nigel,” admitted Mancini. “It was a bruised foot and always

when a player has been out for a month or so, I wonder why. “He is

a strong player but he has had pain for four weeks. He started to

train two or three times. Every time it hurt and was difficult for

him to run. “But in the last week he has improved a lot, which is

good news because he is important for us.” In De Jong’s absence,

Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure have been occupying the midfield

holding role. Another option emerged on Wednesday when Owen

Hargreaves came through almost an hour of his first extended

run-out for three years. But Mancini knows De Jong offers something

different, which City need if they are to be successful at the

highest level. “Nigel is different from all our other midfielders,”

said the Blues chief. “He works a lot in the middle. He recovers

possession. “When we attack, we can do so with more players because

Nigel can stay and help the defenders.” If De Jong does not make it

to Munich, when City will look to build on their debut night draw

against Napoli, he has been pencilled in to play at Blackburn next

Saturday. His presence not only offers Mancini an additional

option, it swells numbers in his squad, which the City chief

believes is vital if the Blues are going to make the impact he is

looking for in all competitions this season. “We need to keep our

players fit, so we can change them around for all the different

games,” he said. “When the FA Cup starts, it is on a Saturday, so

that is not a problem. “Champions League and Carling Cup matches

are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which is more difficult. “We will

try to go for it in everything, but sometimes we might need to take

a little risk.”