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Jan 17, 2011

Mancini: I can't rotate to give Shay a go

Roberto Mancini has defended his decision to restrict Shay Given's appearances for Manchester City this season.

Twelve months ago, the Republic of Ireland star was firmly established as City's No. 1. Now, Given is at a crossroads in his career.

Shunted down to second choice due to Joe Hart's impressive form, the former Newcastle man is keen to leave City and reignite his career. Yet Mancini has warned Given it is not certain such a move will be granted.

"It is not a simple position,'' he said. "You can change the other players every game but the goalkeeper is different. That is the only reason why Shay has not played so often because he is a fantastic goalkeeper.''

The City boss still remembers how he ended up needing to sign Marton Fulop as an emergency at the end of last season when Given was injured and an attempt to get Hart out of his loan spell at Birmingham failed. With the stakes even higher this time around, Mancini is not willing to risk leaving himself so badly exposed again.

Yet the Italian has not exactly made life easier for Given by opting not to select him when certain opportunities have arisen. He sat out both legs of the qualifier, and the opening three Europa League games for instance, and also last week's FA Cup clash at Leicester.

It could be argued that Mancini made that call to stop Given becoming cup-tied. But as the 33-year-old is expected to be recalled for tomorrow night's replay against Sven-Goran Eriksson's Championship outfit, that defence does not stack up.

Instead, Mancini puts it down to the unique nature of the goalkeeping position, which leaves Given in the uncomfortable position of not knowing whether he will remain at Eastlands for the remainder of the season, and uncertain as to whether his services would be required anyway should he help City reach their first major final since 1981.

Not that he is on his own. Veteran midfielder Patrick Vieira is in a very similar situation, having started just two Premier League games all season but eight in cup competitions. And he is one of a number of fringe players Mancini is preparing to introduce as City look to confirm a fourth-round trip to Notts County.

"Patrick Vieira is an important member of our squad,'' Mancini said. "He is a good player, who has lots of experience. He will probably play, along with Jerome Boateng, James Milner, David Silva, Jo and Joleon Lescott. We have other players that we can win this game.''

In some senses, Mancini is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. His pre-season target of a top-four spot is well within reach, with a decent shot at the title as well. However, with five clubs chasing those four spaces, Mancini cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Yet, with no trophy in the cabinet since 1976 and Leicester and League One Notts County blocking the path to the last 16, the FA Cup cannot be easily ignored either.

"I don't like this replay because we have a lot of matches to play until the end of the season already,'' Mancini said. "But we want to win because we want to get to Wembley. For me, that is very important.''

With Mario Balotelli injured and Edin Dzeko ineligible, Mancini may be forced to rely on skipper Carlos Tevez, whose two goals against Wolves at the weekend moved him level with Dimitar Berbatov at the top of the Premier League scoring charts.

The 14-goal striker is clearly a player of huge influence at City, so much so that he has earned a comparison with Diego Maradona from his manager.

"At this moment, Carlos is the best player in the Premier League at scoring special goals,'' he said. "His first against Wolves was fantastic. Only a top player can score a goal like that, Carlos, me, ha ha. Seriously, it was the kind of goal Diego Maradona used to score.''

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