Mancini to decide on departures

PSG director Leonardo suggested his team are more suited to

playing in the Champions League than Ligue 1 after an embarrassing

defeat to 10-man Reims.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side went down 1-0 in Reims as Grzegorz

Krychowiak scored in the 64th minute, six minutes after the hosts

had Christopher Glombard sent off for a second bookable

offence.

PSG had already seen Zlatan Ibrahimovic denied a goal for a

questionable offside decision, but missed several other chances and

surrendered vital ground in the tight Ligue 1 title race.

It was a second away defeat in a row for PSG and Leonardo warned

there could be more as his expensively-assembled team was

constructed for grander stages.

“We are perhaps not made to play in these types of games,” the

Brazilian told Infosport. “We created a team to play in the

Champions League, not the championship.

“We don’t know yet how to handle games where the situation is

against us, where the surface is difficult and we have an important

game every three days.”

However bold their ambitions on the continental stage, Leonardo

admitted they must find a way to win at home in order to stay in

control of the title race.

“When games are based on a fight, we do not succeed,” he said.

“We will have to learn how to face games like these when it gets

tough, as they are common here and this will not be the last

time.”

But while Leonardo’s comments seemed to question PSG’s title

credentials, coach Carlo Ancelotti insisted he had no worries about

his team’s attitude.

“It’s a big disappointment, because we had the opportunity to

win this game with the chance for (Ezequiel) Lavezzi in the first

half and the (disallowed) goal of Ibrahimovic in the second,”

Ancelotti said.

“The only thing I can say is we have to accept this defeat and

better manage matches like this.”

Prior to this match, PSG had enjoyed back-to-back victories over

rivals Marseille in the league and cup, but they also lost their

last league outing away from home in losing 3-2 to Sochaux.

“This is different to Sochaux,” Ancelotti added. “Today we do

not have any attitude problem. It was not a problem of

concentration, but a technical thing. We encountered difficulties

in the game because the pitch was not good. If you cannot play

football, it is hard.

“But I cannot be angry because the team is doing a good job and

we are still leading (the table). We might have won if Lavezzi took

that chance and then the officials had made a different

decision.”

Tevez has re-established himself as a regular in Roberto

Mancini’s side this season, something that was almost unthinkable

last year as he went on unauthorised leave in his homeland for

several months, apparently ready to quit the game.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to come back,” Tevez told the

Sunday Times. “I’d left City and you could almost say I’d left

through the back door. But it is almost like there are two Tevezes.

There’s the Tevez before, who had a problem, and there’s the Tevez

now, who no longer has problems.”

Tevez said the key has been getting his family back together.

Tevez had requested a transfer from City prior to his walkout when

his wife and children returned to Argentina, but now they are all

back in England Tevez said he has a different perspective on his

football.

“It totally changes everything, your disposition, your humour,

just having them close,” he said. “If I wasn’t selected in the past

I’d be in a terrible mood. Now I’m still gutted but I go home, see

my daughters, it takes my mind off it and I feel better.”

The 29-year-old has 11 goals in 33 appearances in all

competitions this season, not quite matching the outstanding return

of his pre-walkout days but still a highly valuable part of Roberto

Mancini’s strikeforce.

Despite that, a sizeable number of City fans still bear a grudge

after last season, with Tevez’s goals often met with a more muted

celebration than those of his team-mates.

Tevez can understand that, but is still working to win them over

with his new attitude.

“I knew it would be difficult for the fans to accept me again,”

he said. “But I hope, little by little, match by match…you give

everything for the shirt and win them over through hambre de gloria

(hunger for glory). I was once a real idol for these fans, they

were so supportive of me. I hope I’m able to win them back.”

While his standing with the supporters still needs work, Tevez

is adamant he and Mancini are now “fine”, their once fiery

relationship “a lot calmer now”.

“It might be down to maturity,” he added. “Maybe, before, I was

under a lot more pressure. I was a leader of the team. People would

often say, ‘If Carlos has a bad day, City have a bad day’. Maybe

you just reach a point where there’s worse things in life than

disappointment in football.

“If I come off the bench and score but I’m not in the next

starting line-up I’m a lot more accepting.”

Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford on Tuesday as Real Madrid take

on United in the second leg of their Champions League last-16

clash.

The Portuguese star’s future has been the subject of speculation

for the last few weeks as talks over a new deal at the Bernabeu

have dragged on.

Although Ferguson has previously admitted he would love to see

Ronaldo back at Old Trafford he has dismissed talk that a move

could be on the cards this summer.

“There hasn’t been anything to encourage me to think Cristiano

would come back here,” said Ferguson.

“As far as I am aware, there is nothing in it at all. Ronaldo

has got two years left on his contract and it seems to me it is all

part of the negotiations that are going on about a new deal.

“Maybe his agent is playing the game. I think it is false hope.

Cristiano will get a good reception. All our former players,

especially the ones who have been great for this club, get a good

reception when they return.”

Ferguson believes Ronaldo is at the peak of his career and has

joked he has two ways to try and stop the forward ending their

Champions League dreams.

“He is a better player now than he was when he was with us

because he has matured,” added Ferguson. “He is 28 and at the peak

of his career. From 28 to 32, with the fitness Ronaldo has got – he

never misses a game and is never injured – he will be at his

absolute best,” he continued.

“I’ve got a plan to stop him: it’s called a machete. Plan B is a

machine gun!”

Ronaldo returns to Old Trafford for the first time since his

world record ?80million move to Real Madrid, bidding to dump his

old club out of the Champions League.

The former World Player of the Year has already done some

damage, cancelling out Danny Welbeck’s opener at the Bernabeu three

weeks ago.

Any intervention this week could prove terminal to United’s

hopes of progress but, having spoken to his former team-mate in the

aftermath of that 1-1 draw in Madrid, Evra feels Ronaldo may find

it difficult knowing so much good feeling for him remains amongst

the Red Devils faithful.

“It is difficult when you play with love,” Evra told MUTV.

“Cristiano will get a great reception on Tuesday because of what

he achieved for Manchester United. The fans will never forget what

he did.

“Also, he still loves the club.

“I remember after the game in Madrid we had a chat.

“He said it was going to be more difficult to come here.

“This is his house, so there will be a lot of emotion. I hope he

doesn’t play well because of that.

“But Ronaldo is a winner. He is a big competitor. If he can win

against Manchester United he will do it.”

Agbonlahor is currently Villa’s longest-serving player – he made

his debut seven years ago – and the England international has often

been linked with a move away from the club.

He will come face to face on Monday evening with Manchester City

duo Gareth Barry and James Milner who both opted to move on, but

academy product Agbonlahor is content to remain with Villa even

though he is still searching for his first trophy.

He said: “Do I regret being a one-club player? I think, for me,

I have always enjoyed playing my football here at Villa so it’s

hard for me to say that.

“Players who have left the club have had their reasons for

leaving.

“For me I’ve always enjoyed playing my football, maybe other

than the one season where I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted to,

which was disappointing.

“Apart from that, I have enjoyed my football and when that it

the case you have no reason to look elsewhere.

“If that changed, then you would have to obviously look

elsewhere. But if I’m in the team and enjoying my football, there

is no reason to do that.”

When asked if the possibility exists for him to never win a

trophy at Villa, Agbonlahor is hopeful that scenario will be

avoided.

He said: “It’s hard to say that. We were especially disappointed

this season to lose to Bradford (in the Capital One Cup semi-final)

but it showed we are getting closer.

“We got to a semi-final so we are closer to getting back to

Wembley. Hopefully next season we can go that one step further.

“But, as much as you want to win things, as long as I am here

and enjoying my football, and the club still want me, I am happy to

stay here.”

Villa dropped back into the Premier League bottom three after

last weekend’s defeat at Arsenal and were beaten 5-0 at City

earlier in the campaign.

Agbonlahor said: “The Premier League is the only place you want

to be playing. That is why, if I’m asked if I am thinking about

relegation, the answer is I’m not.

“I am thinking about helping the team to get out of where we are

now. This is the league you want to be playing in, the best league

in the world. There’s no reason I’d want to leave it.

“Does the threat of relegation scare me? I think it would scare

anyone. As long as you are in the bottom three, it is in your mind

as a player.

“But, if it was a massive gap, you would be a lot more scared.

But it is only a point or two and you are out of there.

“Hopefully we start getting points against the teams around us.

We play QPR and Reading soon, which are massive games and then you

start to think you can climb.”

Agbonlahor added: “Between now and the end of the season that

(relegation) can’t be on our mind.

“We just want to get the results sooner or later to get out of

the current situation.

“We have games coming up we feel we can win, and that’s what we

have to do, go into every game feeling we can win.

“There will be twists and turns but, if we can go into games

with the attitude and the tempo we have been showing, we will be

okay.”

Agbonlahor admits the clash with City has important consequences

for both teams.

He said: “Is it a must-win situation? I think they know that as

well. I don’t want to talk about that part of the league because we

have got to concentrate on our situation.

“But, if you ask them, they know they will need to win every

game as Manchester Utd don’t drop too many points.

“We have got to concentrate on our own game and what we are

fighting for. As long as we go into the game fighting, we will try

and get a result.

“As much as they need to win, we need to win as well. We need

points as well.”

City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title are looking

increasingly bleak after Manchester United once again increased

their advantage at the top of the table to 15 points.

But Mancini is not giving up the fight and still feels his team

have plenty to play for in both the league and the FA Cup, in which

City face Barnsley in the quarter-finals next week.

That gives some players chance to underline their worth to

Mancini as the manager – who remains confident in his own position

at the Etihad Stadium – starts to think ahead to how he might

reshape the squad in the summer.

City have already been linked with a host of players, including

Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, and Mancini

admits he has some targets in mind.

He said: “I think it is important the games we have from now

until the end, very important.

“We know which players we can buy for the future but we don’t

know which players can leave.

“Also because some players (might) want to leave because here

they don’t play and they want more chances to play. Maybe it can

happen.”

When asked if he would make decisions over the final months of

the season, Mancini said at a press conference: “Yes, maybe. Could

be.”

City have a chance to cut United’s lead back to 12 points as

they travel to struggling Aston Villa to play their game in hand on

Monday.

Mancini’s men were beaten by another relegation-threatened side

in Southampton last month and another defeat to lowly opposition

would be unthinkable at this stage.

Yet even with victory, City would still have just 10 games to

turn around a seemingly impossible situation.

Mancini is relying on favours from elsewhere and hopes United’s

Champions League exertions – they face Real Madrid this week – will

catch up with them.

He said: “I think every game could be difficult when you play

every three days and at the moment Manchester United have a lot of

games, important games, Champions League, FA Cup.

“We hope they can lose points but we don’t know when or

where.”

By that thinking it would be in City’s interests for United to

progress to the quarter-finals at Real’s expense this week, even

though the Blues are allowing the Spanish giants to train at

Eastlands.

Mancini has suggested as much in the past but he feels United,

after a 1-1 draw at the Bernabeu in the first leg, might have their

work cut out.

He said: “I don’t know. I think that Real Madrid, for me, are

the best team with Barca at this moment and it will be hard for

Manchester United.

“They played well in Madrid. In this game, I think everything is

possible, all results.”