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Perhaps Roberto Mancini is too negative for English football. A birthday hat-trick for Carlos Tevez and a free-wheeling attacking display to see off West Bromwich Albion dispelled fears the Italian would resort to stereotype to repair Manchester City’s title challenge, but his premature dismissal of his side’s championship hopes suggests he is – in attitude, at least – one of nature’s pessimists.

For all the frustration he must have felt at seeing his team drop two precious points at Birmingham in midweek, for all that Manchester United are setting a searing pace, City have no reason to develop an inferiority complex. Mancini has no reason to lower his ambitions or expectations. They travel to Old Trafford next week: whatever the result there, this is a side capable of staying the course, capable of challenging until the bitter end.

That is, in no small part, down to Tevez. There remains the prospect that managing to quell the Argentine’s attempted mid-season mutiny will be the moment that the title race turned, not Chelsea’s capture of Fernando Torres or United’s success in satisfying Wayne Rooney’s doubts. Few players are so crucial, so consistently, as the Argentine.

Tevez settled the game within 22 minutes here. He had already touched one Aleksandar Kolarov cross on to the post by the time Steven Reid tripped the Serb in the penalty area and City’s captain rolled his spot-kick low to Boaz Myhill’s left; his second, though, will be the one which crowned his 27th birthday.

Vincent Kompany, elegantly stepping out from defence, rolled a pass into the Argentine’s path, 30 yards from goal. He exchanged passes with David Silva, sidestepped a sliding Jonas Olsson and coolly dispatched the ball past Myhill. Not spectacular, but quite exquisite.

He could not have timed it better. Two minutes later, Eastlands’ big screen displayed a montage of Neil Young’s greatest moments at the club, in honour of the forward who lost his long battle with cancer this week. Young scored the winner in the 1969 FA Cup final in the 24th minute; it was at the same instant here that City celebrated his memory. The game secured, a club getting used to looking forward could afford to look back.

Otherwise, after the goal rush, this was the most straightforward of afternoons. Tevez completed his hat-trick with a second penalty after 36 minutes, after a foolish, unnecessary handball from Jerome Thomas, Kolarov saw a 30-yard piledriver tipped on to the bar by Myhill. Silva went close, Tevez saw what would have been his fourth roll agonisingly, gently past the post.

The visitors’ only hope was that City would relax their grip on the game. Whereas the first half had brought only two moments of hope for Roberto Di Matteo’s team – Joe Hart denying Chris Brunt and Jonas Olsson in quick succession – they enjoyed the better chances in a second period in which their hosts reduced their tempo considerably.

Peter Odemwingie, Marc-Antoine Fortune, Brunt, Nicky Shorey: all saw efforts whistle wide, Hart’s pulse rising with each effort, Mancini apoplectic on the touchline so complicit were his team in their own attempted demise. Even Tevez lost his golden touch, ballooning over second chance to record a fourth.

That lack of intensity will be the only negative the Italian can take from this, from an afternoon replete with positives. Manchester City are still – or, to Mancini’s mind, are back – in the title race. This is no place for pessimism.

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