Mark Hughes: The former Manchester United whose managerial reign divided opinion

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Mark Hughes came to Manchester City in the summer of 2008 as the club sought long-term stability and a British core in order to achieve future success. He served for the full 2008-2009 season and until December in the 2009-2010 season. On the recommendation of new Chief Executive Officer Garry Cook, Hughes left Blackburn Rovers after four years in charge at Ewood Park to replace the outgoing Sven-Goran Eriksson. The appointment of the former Manchester United divided the opinions of fans. Many refused to accept that a former red was now in charge of their beloved Manchester City.

June 2nd, 2008 saw the sacking of Eriksson and City didn’t take long to find a suitable replacement. The same day Blackburn Rovers confirmed they had granted manager Mark Hughes permission to speak to City. Once all parties had met and an agreement was in place, Blackburn agreed to a then-world record compensation package ( believed to be in the region of £5 million) for Hughes to take over as manager City and he was appointed as head coach on 4th June 2008 on a three-year contract.

City had fought hard to get their man. Chelsea were also keen on the Welshman but the lure of future promises given by Garry Cook had ensured Hughes’ signature.

The move wasn’t met with satisfaction by all at the club. Hughes was met with a cold reception on his arrival for his first day at Carrington. A petition to “Save Our Sven” was pinned to the notice board in the club’s training ground.

Within the first few weeks Hughes spent £46 million of Shinawatra’s finances before his sale of the club. Players such as Jo, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta were some of the recruits during the first couple of weeks of Hughes’ tenure. But a major shake-up occurred three weeks into the season with a move that would forever change the history of Manchester City.

A heavily financed group from Abu Dhabi led by Dr Sulaiman Al Fahim were looking to invest in the Premier League and by the time City traveled to Denmark to take on FC Midtjylland in the UEFA Cup a takeover seemed imminent. On September 1st 2008 the news of the acquisition broke in the mainstream media and City announced a deal had been brokered.

Marquee names were being linked with City throughout the day but it was Robinho who was signed for £32.5 million on the final day of the transfer window. Mark Hughes was seemingly unaware a deal was being discussed until the Brazilian had signed.

On the field City struggled for consistency to mount a challenge for European football. A comprehensive 6-0 win over Portsmouth proved to be one of the highlights of Hughes’ season but poor performances away from home undid the work previously done to try to make Eastlands a fortress.

Embarrassingly for City, by Christmas day the club was in the relegation zone. A run of only one win in nine games had seen the club slide down the table and face the possibility of relegation despite all the new-found optimism.

Hughes was believed to be facing the sack. However, he received the backing of chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak when he claimed that frequent managerial change was not part of the new philosophy.

It was recognised that reinforcements were required and Hughes was given nearly £50 million to spend in January to sign Craig Bellamy, Shay Given, Nigel De Jong and Wayne Bridge.

Most famously, a failed £108 million bid for Kaka was the talking point of the window. Both clubs had agreed a deal for the player but a fan revolt in Milan made City feel manipulated by both parties and the deal fell through.

The new recruits helped City go on a valiant run in the UEFA Cup only for a strong Hamburg side to defeat City 4-3 on aggregate. Despite the run in Europe, inconsistency domestically meant City finished in 9th position with eighteen league losses, something the club were keen to improve on.

More than £100 million was spent during the summer of 2009. Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott, Kolo Toure and Gareth Barry, all Premier League proven players, were signed. The club was keen to finally break into the top four and achieve Champions League football for the first time in City’s history.

Three wins from their first three games and no goals conceded meant City ended August on top of the table. They went on to defeat Arsenal but a 97th-minute winner from Michael Owen in the derby left Hughes fuming when his side suffered their first league defeat of the season.

A win against West Ham put City’s season back on track but the wheels came off once again. Just two wins in the next eleven Premier League games was clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed at the beginning of the season.

Despite spending heavily on the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott and Carlos Tevez, results failed to satisfy City’s ambitious new owners. Rumours of Hughes departure abounded. After a shambolic display away to Tottenham which they lost 3-0, the board felt that replacing Hughes was the best solution to the amount of points being dropped.

The decision was made but not to the knowledge of Hughes. Behind the scenes the club were meeting former Inter Milan boss Roberto Mancini as they feared a period of doubt and uncertainty if they dismissed Hughes without a suitable replacement.

On December 19th, as City were preparing to take on Sunderland at home, the club were planning to dismiss Hughes later that evening. A meeting was arranged at 6 pm. Unfortunately for City, news leaked earlier the same morning.

Hughes was duly sacked after a 4-3 victory over Sunderland and was replaced by Mancini, despite rumours of Guus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho taking over at City. Mancini had been in the crowd at the game and his presence attracted much press sympathy for Hughes.

Under Mark Hughes, City won 36 and lost 25 of 77 games.

Of their 16 draws, eight came in their final 11 Premier League outings.

The club spent close to £200 million on players during his 18-month reign, including a record-breaking British transfer fee of £32.4 million on Robinho.

Roberto Mancini took over on 3 January 2011.

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