MANCHESTER, England (AP) Carlos Tevez suffered for six months before finally scoring for West Ham last season.
Six games is all he has needed at Manchester United, netting the opening goal in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea.
A protracted legal battle was necessary to secure his services over the summer, but it was all worthwhile when the Argentina striker’s diving header beat Petr Cech on the stroke of halftime at Old Trafford.
“Any player who comes to our club with the reputation of being a goal scorer needs a goal,” United manager Alex Ferguson said. “Carlos has been doing very well for us and he’s getting fitter all the time.”
Just in time to propel United to a serious defense of its Premier League title following a sluggish start to the campaign.
Sunday’s victory lifted the Red Devils into second place and Ferguson is backing the 23-year-old Tevez, who teamed up with Wayne Rooney for the first time, to ensure Arsenal is toppled from top spot.
“He will get better as he’s still a young lad,” Ferguson said. “He has a cocky confidence in himself. He has a good awareness, he is as brave as a lion — as tough as nails.”
Seeing off Chelsea in its first game since Jose Mourinho’s shock exit last week was an important scalp for Ferguson.
Mourinho’s first game at the helm in 2004 was a 1-0 win over United, setting the trend for the next three years as the Portuguese built his team into an insurmountable force, which lost just once to United in six league clashes.
Ferguson has matched that just one game into Avram Grant’s reign.
“In the first half hour we played as well as we have all season. There was terrific penetration, good passing and at that stage we could have been two or three goals ahead,” Ferguson said. “We got our confidence back. The style and tempo of our game was back and I was delighted.”
Louis Saha, a second-half substitute for Tevez, converted a disputed 90th-minute penalty that gave United its biggest win since April — ending six months of failing to hit the net more than once.
Grant, though, was furious with referee Mike Dean for awarding a spot kick, dismissing John Obi Mikel in the 32nd minute, extending stoppage time in the first half to allow Tevez to score and failing to send off Rooney in the second period.
The penalty and red card were harsh decisions, Ferguson conceded, but he was enraged by the failure to adequately punish Joe Cole for a lunge at Cristiano Ronaldo.
“Tackles like that are a danger to players,” Ferguson said. “He went right down the back of his leg and could have done some real damage. It is the type of thing Cristiano is facing all the time now but Cole got off with it because the referee was balancing things out after the first sending off.”
Ferguson was still able to celebrate United notching four straight league wins and shutouts to draw a line under the poor start to the season, which was capped by defeat at cross-town rival Manchester City.
“We’re trying to get the level of last season and we can’t afford mistakes,” Ferguson said. “If we keep our togetherness, playing as a real team and work hard, we can get the right results for ourselves and get back chasing the leaders. That’s the best way to do it.”
Fluency and firepower, though, are still lacking.
“We were far too pedantic and played with too much caution in second half,” Ferguson said.
As United exploited Chelsea’s fragility, Ferguson was reassured that his 21-year reign shows no sign of being terminated soon.
“Alex has a good few years ahead of him, so succession plans are not on the agenda at the moment,” chief executive David Gill said Sunday.