Roberto Mancini Midfield Balancing Act To Accommodate Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira has returned to the Premier League on a six-month contract with Manchester City. His name may still evoke respect from his opponents but one should bear in mind that the feisty midfielder is no longer the box-to-box field Marshall we last saw of him in an Arsenal shirt. For now, as with any arrival, there is a great sense of anticipation. Manchester City’s hero Mike Summer bee had welcomed Patrick Vieria at the training ground and spoke of how he played until age 40. Vieira, who is turning 34 in June, will have been encouraged to know that age is not a stigma at City.

To be sure, even in the fast paced Premier League today, it is possible to have a long career without any significant decline in performance. Evergreens Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are good examples but the injury plagued Patrick Vieira is a risky bet.Patrick Vieira’s trademark tenacity in keeping and fighting for possession has become harder to execute with age. In fact, two former Arsenal team-mates, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, believe his best days are over.

To which the Frenchman retorted: “I have nothing to prove to anybody. I just have to believe in myself. I know what I am capable of and I am back in England because I feel I still have something to offer. And City believe in me as well.”How long the goodwill in Manchester City last is unclear. For now, Vieira is making all the right noises for the benefit of his new club. He emphasized that Manchester United have lost their aura of invincibility, especially with the departure of Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Indeed, Manchester United’s dearth of attacking options has been compounded by an increasingly challenging Premier League. Besides the traditional Big Four, Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa are also gunning for glory. The humiliating 1-0 defeat by Leeds United and fortunate 1-1 draw with Birmingham reflected Manchester United’s struggle to battle on all fronts with limited resources.Not that Alex Ferguson needs any reminder and there is always a price to pay for stoking his competitive nature. The two Manchester clubs will clash in the Carling Cup later this month and emotions are set to run wild. It will be a time to settle old scores too as Vieria’s last kick for Arsenal was a penalty which cost Manchester United the FA Cup in 2005.

Rekindling intense rivalry is one thing but it is quite another to reinforce Manchester City’s title pretensions. Patrick Vieira has echoed Roberto Mancini’s sentiment that City could achieve the top prize this season.So far, Mancini’s immaculate win record in 4 games since replacing Mark Hughes has left City fourth in the Premier League table, 7 points behind leader, Chelsea. They are definitely in contention for the title if we considered that Arsenal came back “from 15 points behind in one season.”

The owner, Sheikh Mansour, will actually be contended with a top four finish to justify his spending and account for half a season of “no progress” under Mark Hughes. Thus, talking up title hopes is something which Mancini and Vieira should refrain, lest it backfires on them.