So that's why Hargreaves was so eager to get back

Updated: 2011-09-23 07:50

(China Daily)

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 So that's why Hargreaves was so eager to get back

Manchester City's Owen Hargreaves (left) challenges Birmingham City's Nathan Redmond during their English League Cup match in Manchester on Wednesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Former star, who had to fight hard to find a team, scores in Man City victory

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom - Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini believes Owen Hargreaves can play a key role in his side's challenge for silverware after the injury-plagued midfielder marked his debut with a goal in the 2-0 League Cup third round win over Birmingham.

Hargreaves had been sidelined for virtually three seasons with a series of knee injuries and the former England star was released by Manchester United at the end of last season after the champions rejected his offer to play for free.

The 30-year-old even posted a video on YouTube trying to attract interest in his services as he desperately tried to revive his career.

In the end, Mancini took the bait, snapping Hargreaves up on a free transfer the day before the transfer deadline.

His gamble appears to have paid off.

Hargreaves looked in good shape during his 57-minute appearance against Birmingham at Eastlands on Wednesday, with his fine long-range strike the perfect morale-boost after just six minutes of action in the last three years.

"It was good for him," Mancini said. "Owen is a fantastic player, who can become a very important player for us.

"He hasn't had any problems in the last three weeks. At the moment, his knee is fine.

"We said before the match we would give him between 45 and 60 minutes. As it turned out, he was okay for 60."

Mancini must now decide the best way to plot Hargreaves' progress, knowing the new arrival will be denied an emotional reunion with former club Bayern Munich in the Champions League next week as he was not registered in City's 25-man European squad.

"We didn't know what his condition would be when we had to decide," said Mancini.

"It was difficult. It is possible we could bring him in during January.

"But he has only played 60 minutes. Now it is important that he recovers properly because he can be good for us and England.

"After so long out, I don't think it was easy for him before the game. But he worked well and scored a fantastic goal."

Mario Balotelli added a second before halftime, and with Birmingham offering only a very limited threat, City was able to coast home.

It was a good night all around for City as Kolo Toure was named skipper and played his first game since completing a six-month ban for a failed drug test.

"I am happy for him too," said Mancini. "It was the correct decision to choose him as captain."

Agence France-Presse