Man City: A Marathon Not A Sprint

After their loss to the resurgent Tottenham at the weekend, making it three league defeats on the bounce, it was refreshing to see the club’s foreign owners come out in support of the manager. Some may have expected the pressure to be on Mark Hughes after a couple of defeats, especially given the colossal amount of money that has been brought into the club, and the obvious talent that the team possesses.

But while money does have an enormous impact on football at the top level these days, it is important to remember that a worn out cheque book is not all that it takes to bring success. If Man City’s owners are serious in their ambition to bring long term success to the club, to rival their counterparts across the city, then they would be shrewd indeed to stick with Mark Hughes.

He is a manager that will get things done. He will build a side that is not just a list of hugely talented players, but is a side that will work well as a unit, and play for each other. But this isn’t a process that can happen overnight, especially with transfer windows in place. Hughes will be constantly assessing his squad and come January and the end of the season, will no doubt spend a but of money, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t bring in big, big names.

He already has a lot of attacking talent, don’t be surprised to see him sure up the defence, but most importantly, any players he does sign, will have to be suitable. Signing any more world-famous players like Robinho could very well upset the balance of the side. I think the Brazilian will be the focal point of the team, and so Hughes will bring in players who will play around him, and know that this is their job.

So while City’s owners have been rumoured to be interested in the likes of Kaka and Ronaldo amongst others, I think it is important that they stick to their most recent statement, that Hughes has their full support, than those earlier ones. He must be backed in the transfer market, and they must not insist he sign big players simply for the shirt sales. Because shirt sales don’t bring success.

For me, they key comparison here, is between Manchester United and Chelsea. Since Roman Abramovich took over the London club, expectations have been astronomically high. And while they have had success, notably two Premier League titles and a Champions League runners up medal, they have yet to sustain the sort of dominance over English football that Man Utd have held since the early nineties.

And there is a key reason for this. Both clubs have money, United have been liberally backed for many years, while Chelsea have been in possession of their enormous fortune for about five years now. But the thing is, while Sir Alex Ferguson has been in charge of United since 1986, Chelsea have had four managers in the five years since they were taken over. Ferguson didn’t have the most successful of starts to his United career, and indeed in the 89/90 season if he had lost to Forest in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, would probably have been sacked.

But the board stuck with their man, and their loyalty was soon repaid, when he finally delivered the English League title, the first of the Premiership era, and the club have dominated ever since then. But Chelsea of course have been through Ranieri, Mourinho, Grant and now Scolari on their search for success. But none of them has been given much time to build an actual team, though the man who was there longest, Mourinho, did of course deliver their two titles though.

So if the Man City owners have anything about them (which one would assume they must, to have earned such a fortune) they will take heed of these two differing clubs. While Chelsea have bought famous, world renowned players (and sold lots of shirts), Man Utd are still the team who are most dominant on English football, and it proves that money is not everything.

So they are right to show faith in Mark Hughes. Unless anything goes majorly wrong, they should stick with him for many years. He has shown he has skill as a manager, and he will bring them success, but only if they back him, and not just with money. David Moyes has shown at Everton that money isn’t essential, and much improvement can be achieved without it. The expectations that come with such riches though, are far greater, and Hughes has a lot of work ahead of him.

It is certainly refreshing to see these foreign owners backing their manager though. In a day and age where clubs are being taken over right, left and center, more foreign ‘investors’ should follow their lead. Man City fans must hope of course, that their owners continue to remember that the race for success is a marathon and not a sprint, and genuinely do support Hughes to the full. If they do so, in a few years, Man City and Hughes might well rival Man Utd and Ferguson at the summit of English Football.

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