Mark Hughes sets out Manchester City's blueprint for success

11 March 2009 08:26
Manchester City v AalborgKick-off: Thu Mar 12, 7.45pm; Eastlands, ManchesterTV: ITV4Radio: BBC Radio Five Live

Only 14 words long, the sentence spoke volumes. Hughes's pronouncement highlighted the need for everyone within Eastlands to pursue excellence through unstinting endeavour, a point that Robinho and Craig Bellamy have also made, while emphasising the reality that success rarely arrives overnight.

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As he ran off to fine-tune preparation for Thursday night's Uefa Cup last-16 first leg with Aalborg, Hughes passed a familiar figure, Hristo Stoichkov. Still exuding the swarthy swagger of his Barcelona pomp, the Bulgarian had requested permission to watch training at Carrington. His presence was a brooding reminder of the logic of Hughes's argument.

Good things come only to those who work hard. Stoichkov's old war cry of "fighting in every game, in every practice, and for every ball'' will have struck a chord with Hughes. So will a memory, however painful.

Stoichkov's muscular line-leading, exceptional movement and finishing inflicted on Hughes and Manchester United that devastating 4-0 defeat at Barcelona in 1994. Five years later on the same pitch, United were crowned champions of Europe.

Hughes had moved on, but he knew all about the time and effort, the mistakes and the lessons endured en route before United found their reward. In detailing his ambitions for his present club, Hughes talked of City as "they'' and his management team as "we''. He was determined to impose "our" philosophy on "them'', particularly in building a team and mentality capable of winning a competition like the Uefa Cup.

"It's been too long,'' said Hughes of City's 33-year wait for major honours. "For the amount of time they've been in the top tier of football they should have won more trophies. We are trying to change the mentality of everyone here and that takes time. But we are starting that process and will be helped if we can progress in trophies like the Uefa Cup. We're in good shape. That first trophy is important to everybody.

"I wanted to win trophies as a player so I would love to win trophies as a manager. You get to semi-finals of three cups at Blackburn [two FA Cup, one Carling Cup] so I was one step away from finals but maybe we weren't quite strong enough. I'm at a club now with the means to be in a better position to do that. Sustained success is what we are all talking about. We have that capability of coming up against the top teams and acquitting ourselves quite well. We did that at Liverpool and against Aston Villa.''

Hughes's plans to combat an Aalborg team decent enough to draw 2-2 at Old Trafford in the Champions League three months ago have been complicated by Nigel de Jong's ineligibility and Vincent Kompany's toe injury. Central midfield looks light.

In attack, Bellamy's knee trouble leaves him out for another "week to 10 days'' but Robinho's ankle problem has eased. As Hughes observed, the Brazilian's "ability to unlock the door'' will be crucial against such well-organised visitors.

Slowly but surely, Hughes continues to build City into a more substantial unit but he understands the pressure on him as manager of the world's wealthiest club. "I don't think the scrutiny we are under will lessen if we win something,'' Hughes added wryly.


Source: Telegraph