Manchester City sacked manager Mark Hughes this evening, despite his side defeating Sunderland 4-3 at Eastlands earlier in the day.
In the height of Hughes’ summer spending spree, people were making wild predictions about the impact his side would have in the Premier League.
I wrote this article, where I questioned whether Manchester City would be able to break the Big Four this season. At the time I made this comment:
“In all probability Mark Hughes will struggle to get the team to gel in the early stages of the campaign, will be too far off the pace to mount a serious challenge, and will be sacked by Christmas.”
As it turned out, these remarks were largely spot on. But rather than brag excessively about my previous analysis, I want to highlight why Manchester City were wrong to sack Hughes.
Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak offered this explanation as to why the club dismissed their manager on City’s official website:
“Prior to the current season beginning, with significant investment in players and infrastructure in place, the consensus between the Board and coaching staff was that appropriate agreed targets should be set for the 2009/2010 season,” he said.
“A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set. Sheikh Mansour and the Board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change.”
On the surface this seems to be a fair assessment, but on deeper inspection this analysis prangs of an ownership that simply doesn’t understand football—teams have good spells and teams have bad spells.
This is just one of the frustratingly brilliant aspects of the beautiful game.
Hughes’ side had shown flashes of genuine quality during his tenure, at times playing some excellent football. Dropping points from winning positions will no doubt be frustrating for the chairman, but inconsistency should be expected when so many changes had been made to the line up.
The fact that Manchester City only lost twice during those fated 11 fixtures shows that, despite being exposed on occasion, the team had an underlying toughness that made then relatively difficult to beat.
Of course, the team wasn’t strong enough to compete for the Premier League, but they may well have begun to find some consistency as the campaign drew on. The team is in a strong position to make a charge for Champions League football, lying six points off fourth position—with a game in hand over their rivals.
Bringing in Roberto Mancini may well prove to be an astute move, he certainly has more experience at the top than Hughes, but it also a risk. The move may destabilise the club, and the majority of these players are loyal to Hughes.
Mancini will have to get off to a flying start, otherwise the dressing room may implode and a season that has the potential to be a success may well turn out to be a failure.
Only time will tell if this turns out to be the right decision for the Citizens, but it would have been good for football to see Hughes be given more time.
Mancini will understand this himself, having suffered a similar fate when he was ousted by Massimo Moratti at Inter Milan in favour of Jose Mourinho.