As Manchester City approach what could be the biggest season in club history, set to boast their new, all-star line up, it is not their shallow defensive forces nor their inexperience as a big club that is their weakness. Rather, it is their manager. No one at Eastlands is under more pressure than the man at the helm: Mark Hughes. Should he do anything but meet the enormous expectations that have been set for him, Hughes will be the first out the door at City. And truly, this seems the most likely scenario.
The fact of the matter is that Hughes has never been in a “big-time” situation like this. Unlike his senior career where he thrived at some of Europe’s biggest clubs (Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea), the Welshman’s managerial resume consists of only two four-year stints in charge of the Wales national team and Blackburn Rovers, two sides with nothing but mediocre expectations every year. While Hughes did do a decent job at each position, admittedly neither situation was nearly as demanding as the challenge he now faces with City.
Interestingly enough, too, is that while it is left to Hughes to please or disappoint the club’s new, big-spending, owners, it is his player’s expectations that are destined to be unfulfilled also. Ironically, City’s new star-studded line up consists of players who have come from clubs much bigger than any of the sides Mark Hughes has managed: Robinho from Real Madrid, Carlos Tevez from Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure of Arsenal, and Gareth Barry of Aston Villa. While, yes, many of these players are loving their newly-doubled wages (or some absurd increase in income), first-class managers and winning are commonplace for them. Should Mark Hughes not bring home the results, his team will be quite frustrated.
Recent events indicate the unrest has already begun to unravel within the City squad, and with two of the team’s best players. Brazilian international Elano has just left for Turkish side Galatasaray, citing improper use of his abilities by Hughes as the reason for his departure. And fellow countryman Robinho, who was reportedly unhappy last year at Eastlands, has said he is “saddened” by Elano’s transfer. In other words, he wants out of Manchester, too.
Such discontent looming above City before the season has even started does not foresee a good future at Eastlands. While City are indeed on the right track to making the prized break into England’s “Big Four,” such a conquest does not happen with a snap of the fingers. The puzzle pieces may be there, but if the talent on the pitch far exceeds that of the manager, the puzzle cannot be put together. Thus, realistically, in a campaign where anything but a top four finish may be deemed unsuccessful, for Manchester City, it looks as if Mark Hughes has been set up for failure this coming season.