About a month ago, I was one of those who said "City aren't up to it," "they'll fall at the first hurdle," etc. I'll be the first to admit it; I was wrong. Up until the Manchester derby, they've been brilliant in almost every way—Shay Given is proving to be probably the world's best keeper.
But I don't think they'll break the top four this season.
It's simple; discipline. Many said Hughes would not be able to keep his new mercenary egos in check and in all fairness, he's not doing a good job of proving otherwise. We all know and have endlessly debated about Adebayor's appalling behaviour against Arsenal; attempts at justifying these scenes are pale and pathetic and not worth listening to. Adebayor is now banned and is facing a second charge for his celebration.
Fast forward a week and, ironically, City are short of strikers. With injuries to Robinho and Santa Cruz, Adebayor banned and Tevez needing his leg strapping heavily,a lot of the onus fell to Craig Bellamy to be City's firepower.
He stepped up to the plate magnificently—his second goal makes you question Sparky's wisdom in trying to replace him all summer. However, he once again fell foul of City's discipline as he felt it necessary to approach a restrained fan who had burst onto the pitch and slap him.
Hughes has tried (and failed) to compare this to an incident involving Clough, who brought a pitch invader down mid-sprint. Of course, Bellamy did nothing of the sort; he walked the width of the pitch to a man being held down by stewards and hit him in the face. Not necessary.
Bellamy now also faces a charge from the F.A. It is unlikely to result in a ban, but Hughes has got to stop nursing the egos of these players or it'll come back to haunt him. Three awful errors of judgement by two stellar players, three refusals to discipline by Mark Hughes.
Those in the red half of Manchester who said City will crumble when the going gets tough may just be rubbing their hands in glee come May.