Manchester City's Mark Hughes insists he has full backing of club's Arab owners

19 March 2009 06:27
Several key figures attached to the club have suggested Hughes is likely to be replaced by a more high-profile manager after a rollercoaster season, with AC Milan manager Carlo Ancelotti a probable contender thanks to his contacts with several of Europe's most high-profile players, including Brazilian forward Kaka.

But it is believed the club's owner and chairman, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Khaldoon Al-Mubarak, have offered Hughes their full support and are prepared to give the Welshman time to prove his ability next season once he has been able to put his imprint on the squad.

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The Welshman insists he has already exceeded expectations this season, with City on course to at least match their highest ever Premier League finish of eighth and within touching distance of a Uefa Cup quarter final, assuming they see off AaB Aalborg in Denmark on Thursday night.

He said: "I think the owners are pleased. The view was to make progress and we've done that as a team. The chairman understands where we are.

"Me and my staff have set the targets. This club has never been higher than eighth in the Premier League era and we like to think we can get close to bettering that. It hasn't got to a semi-final in recent years so if we can manage that then maybe we'll get a bit of credit for it.

"The initial expectation was to get past the group stage of the Uefa Cup and see what happened, so we've done better than we thought we would. It's pleasing we're the last English team in the competition, too.

"You can see we've improved as a team and a squad. I have two years left on my contract at Manchester City and I've not been banging on doors for a new one.

"Maybe there are certain people who want to see me fail, but it's predictable we will be criticised if we lose games. People say we should be doing better because we are the richest club in the world, but it's not fair to judge us like Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester United."

Hughes knows he is in for another busy summer as he tries to build a team capable of fulfilling Sheikh Mansour's vision of a Manchester City able to compete at the very highest level. As many as half a dozen players may arrive and the club are expected to shed as many as 10 from their current squad.

That is more than likely to spell the end of the likes of Michael Ball, Tal Ben-Haim, Dietmar Hamann, Benjani, Gelson Fernandes, Glauber Berti and Darius Vassell as Hughes cuts his first-team squad to just 25, enabling him to draft in the products of the club's renowned academy as back up.

The task of adding players of sufficient quality to help the club take the jump to the upper echelons of the Premier League will be made infinitely easier should City continue to increase their European profile with a good run in the Uefa Cup, with progression to the quarter finals almost assured after last week's comfortable 2-0 win against Aalborg.

That the manager and the players are excited at the prospect of ending the club's 33 year wait for a trophy goes without saying, but the fans seem less enthused. Just 24,596 turned up to watch last week's tie, although Hughes dismisses suggestions he is wrong to have prioritised a competition scorned by fellow Premier League sides.

He said: "We can't judge people for not wanting to spend all that money taking the family to the football in the current climate, but maybe by the time of the quarter finals it will be more exciting.

"We've viewed the competition as one that's worth pursuing so now we'll see how far we can go. It may get a bit tasty in the next round so let's hope there are some big European nights to come."


Source: Telegraph