Hughes: Tevez will thrill fans
Mark Hughes has assured Manchester City fans they have not seen the best of Carlos Tevez. City supporters have afforded the Argentina talent hero status at Eastlands following his big-money summer move from fierce rivals Manchester United. He rewarded them with his first Blues goal at Selhurst Park last night as City eased into the Carling Cup third round with a comfortable victory over Crystal Palace.
It was part of a typically energetic display from the 25-year-old, who has quickly recovered his fitness after a heel injury prevented him from getting involved in all but the last couple of weeks of pre-season training. Yet Hughes knows there is much more to come from the South American, as City look to force their way into the Barclays Premier League's high-achievers this term.
"Carlos has endeared himself to this side of Manchester," smiled Hughes. "They have made him very much at home at City and are enjoying what he is producing. But he will get better. There is not a shadow of a doubt about that. He is a great player and once he gets games under his belt, he is going to be exceptional for us."
Having seen his side lose at Brighton in the Carling Cup and against Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup last term, Hughes has first-hand experience of the soft underbelly City tend to show on such occasions. He also knows the current big four are unlikely to field anything like the strength of team he turned out last night - with an estimated value in excess of £200m - which is why it could turn out to be such a significant victory.
"In the past Manchester City have struggled to overcome opposition like that," Hughes said. "But it is an important competition for us and we wanted to generate some momentum, which is why I selected the side I did."
With no additional injury problems, Hughes could name an unchanged line-up for Sunday's visit to Portsmouth. One man who will definitely be absent is Richard Dunne, who is in talks with Aston Villa over a £6m move. Once Hughes had identified central defence as an area he wanted to strengthen, Dunne's days were numbered.
Yet many City fans will be sad to see the exit of a player who won the club's player of the year prize four seasons on the trot, even if, with Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott now confirmed as the first-choice partnership, there were legitimate reasons for letting Dunne go.
"Richard Dunne has been a fantastic player for Manchester City who did a great deal for the club in difficult times," said Hughes. "I could have been quite selfish about it, but that would have been disrespectful for someone who has done so much for the club.
"This is a big year for Richard, with the [FIFA] World Cup at the end, and this is an opportunity to get regular games."
Hughes sprang something of a surprise by naming Toure as captain last night, when many pundits expected Gareth Barry to get the armband. The Blues manager insists he has not decided who will get the job on a permanent basis. He is sure about one thing though: he has plenty of options.
"Kolo Toure has great qualities that lend themselves to being captain," Hughes said. "But we have a lot of guys who have filled the role at other clubs and there is great back-up for whoever gets the armband long-term.
"Now we have a dressing room full of guys with a strong mentality, which is exactly what I wanted."