Manchester City 2 Stoke 0: New manager Roberto Mancini finds friends and foes at Eastlands

By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

Roberto Mancini has not been slow to immerse himself in local life, attending Mass in a south Manchester church on Christmas Eve.

Two days later, to the east of the city that is currently his home, the new City manager found out a few other things that characterise the club that he joined as a replacement for Mark Hughes last week.

Mancini now knows - if he didn't already - that Brazilian Robinho will contribute only fitfully. He knows, too, that Craig Bellamy, a substitute on Boxing Day, is the better option down the left side of his team's attacking formation.

Carlos Tevez

Argentinian ace: Tevez scores City's second goal against Stoke

The Italian knows his goalkeeper, Shay Given, will be one of his most important players as he looks to make progress over the coming weeks. He made two exceptional saves at crucial times here.

And one more thing. After reading Martin Petrov's criticism of Hughes on the City website, he will know the Bulgarian is another player around whom the world must revolve if he is to be a settled presence in the dressing room.

Enlarge   Carlos Tevez

THE SECRET OF TEVEZ'S WACKY GOAL CELEBRATION: Carlos Tevez flies through the air to claim his fifth goal in six City games then celebrates by poking out his bottom and wiggling it in a move based on a cumbia - an Argentine dance that is a tribute to his family

None of this will concern Mancini too much. He did his research before joining the club. What will worry him more is how he navigates around these problems ahead of today's visit to Wolves in the Barclays Premier League.

With injuries ripping the heart from his squad, his options are limited. Certainly, Bellamy will start at Molineux and it is to be hoped that a poor Robinho, who was lazy and half-hearted in this game, will not.

Elsewhere, though, he must use his imagination. Roque Santa Cruz and Shaun Wright-Phillips are struggling with injuries, while midfielder Vincent Kompany is required in the middle of his defence.

With Mancini being paid in the region of £3million a year, it is clear the former Inter coach is having to earn his money.

He said: 'It's not good that we have a game so quickly because we have so many players injured, but this is English football. Wolves will certainly be a different type of game for us. But this is what I came here for.'

Mancini was afforded an enthusiastic reception from a full house at Eastlands, and rightly so.

Whatever the circumstances of his appointment, every new manager deserves a chance.

Wearing a City scarf, what he was then presented with was pretty typical of what has gone before.

City looked lively and dangerous going forward but conceded possession too easily and needed good goalkeeping and a little fortune to ensure they earned their first Premier League clean sheet since the 0-0 draw at Birmingham on November 1.

The goals came from Petrov - after Robinho miskicked a low cross - and from Carlos Tevez, one of City's better players.

Prior to Petrov's opener, though, Given saved bravely from Stoke striker Tuncay and in the second half City's goalkeeper was at his best again as he turned a James Beattie volley around the post.

'I knew Shay was the best before this game,' Mancini said with a smile. 'Now I am sure of that.'

Mancini was brave enough to start with Robinho and Petrov, but neither were impressive and the Bulgarian's post-match comments are sadly typical of a talented player liked by City fans but known by those who work with him to be lazy, self-absorbed and unreliable.


MANCHESTER CITY (4-4-1-1): Given 7; Zabaleta 7, Toure 7, Kompany 7, Sylvinho 7 (Richards 65min, 6); Ireland 7, De Jong 8, Barry 7, Petrov 6; Robinho 5; Tevez 7.

STOKE CITY (4-4-2): Sorensen 7; Wilkinson 6 (Huth 47, 6), Faye 6, Higginbotham 6, Collins 6; Whitehead 7, Whelan 7, Diao 7, Etherington 7; Tuncay 6 (Fuller 58, 6), Sidibe 6. Booked: Diao, Whelan.

Man of the match: Nigel de Jong.

Referee: Lee Mason.  

Petrov said: 'What he (Hughes) was doing to me was unfair. Every manager has different ideas about what he likes to do in training and tactics. Now we try to do better and we did that today.'

At Molineux another clean sheet would certainly be priceless. Captain and central defender Kolo Toure will be available today after Ivory Coast allowed him to delay his arrival at the Africa Cup of Nations, but much will rely on the contributions of Kompany and holding midfielder Nigel de Jong, who were both excellent on Saturday.

Perhaps it's appropriate that an Italian coach is already thinking and talking about defending and clean sheets.

But Mancini's early days at Eastlands will be difficult and crucial to his chances of taking City into the top four.

For now the adventurous side of his nature must stay buried.