From strength to strength

Zimbabwe international Benjani told to stay as City boss eyes United cruncher

MIDDLESBROUGH: Benjani Mwaruwari has been told he still has a future at Manchester City after scoring for the first time in more than a year during the 1-0 FA Cup third round win away to Middlesbrough.

Victory extended new manager Roberto Mancini’s 100 per cent unbeaten record since the Italian replaced the sacked Mark Hughes as City geared up for next week’s eagerly-awaited League Cup semi-final against Manchester United in impressive style at the Riverside here on Saturday.

Zimbabwe international Benjani made the most of a rare start with the only goal to see-off Championship side Middlesbrough as Mancini displayed the strength in depth at his disposal by making five changes and leaving more than 30 million pounds of talent on the bench to keep his side fresh for Wednesday’s first leg of the League Cup semi-final.

Asked immediately after the game if he was close to signing Inter Milan defender Ivan Cordoba, Mancini replied: “No, not for now.
“At the moment, what is important is this game and Manchester United.”

Benjani has been linked with a move away in the January transfer window after falling down the pecking order at Eastlands, especially as Mancini is expected to bolster his squad with at least two new signings this month.

But the 31-year-old provided a timely reminder of his predatory goal-scoring instincts with a first strike since he appeared on the scoresheet in the 1-1 draw against Fulham in the Premier League in December 2008.

The goal, carved out by midfielder Martin Petrov in first-half stoppage time, settled a contest fought-out in near blizzard conditions.
Mancini insisted the African could play a significant role in the second half of the season, with City aiming to make it to Wembley on two fronts.

The former Inter boss, whose job prospects beyond this season may hinge on ending the club’s 34-year wait for a major trophy, said: “Benjani came in and took his goal really well.

“He looked good throughout the game and I was pleased with his display. He’s shown me what he can do and that can only be good for the club and long may it continue.”

Mancini intends to watch Manchester United when City’s local rivals face Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup at Old Trafford yesterday. City’s latest manager has won his three games in charge without conceding a goal, but knows he faces by far the sternest test of his short reign in the first-leg at Eastlands as injuries begin to hurt even a squad with his club’s strength in depth City.

After introducing Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy from the bench in the second-half against Middlesbrough, Mancini said: “We’ve got a big problem at the moment because we have a lot of players injured so I made changes today because I can’t play my players all the time.

“We’re pleased to get through this test because the FA Cup is an important competition for us and it’s something we want to pay our full attention to.”

Mancini hopes to have England midfielder Shaun-Wright Phillips in contention to face United after a four-game injury absence, but defender Micah Richards is unlikely to figure because of a thigh problem. — AFP

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