So much for long-term projects at Manchester City
Manchester City’s chief executive Garry Cook has made an impassioned defence of the reasons for Mark Hughes’ sacking.
The feeling persists, however, that Hughes was harshly treated by the club.
Cook states that he and the club’s owners gave Hughes all the resources that he needed to achieve the target of 70 points for the season. The one resource Hughes did not get was time. Had just two of the almost freakish seven successive draws been turned into victories, City would have been in an extremely strong position in the race for a top-four spot.
Even as it stands, they are well-placed in sixth place with 29 points from 17 games, just six points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa with a game in hand. Cook’s statement that the trajectory of recent events gave no evidence to suggest City could reach 70 points is a curious basis on which to sack a manager.
Hughes was asked to put together a team that could threaten the established top four. City beat Chelsea and Arsenal, drew with Liverpool and lost to Manchester United to a goal deep in stoppage time. The only other league defeat was away to Tottenham Hotspur.
City have two very winnable looking games over Christmas. Had Hughes remained in his job and won those, it would have been very hard to justify sacking him, especially with a League Cup semi-final against Manchester United looming.
It all smacks of panic by owners who talked a good game about “long-term projects” but in reality got spooked when some of the league’s more humble clubs refused to roll over and surrender.
Hughes’ replacement Roberto Mancini spoke confidently about fourth place being his target, but not a necessity.
Mancini will get plenty of money to spend in January and next summer. He will also be set lofty targets by the club’s billionaire Arab owners.
A top-five finish this season would probably be seen as satisfactory but Mancini’s comfort zone will not last long. Next season the clock will be ticking.