Will Roberto Mancini bring success to City?
It is difficult to comprehend not only the fact Mark Hughes has been sacked, but the manner in which Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan swung his hefty axe and prematurely dismissed the Welsh manager.
Hughes struck a forlorn figure as he waved to the City fans - he looked like a beaten man.
The owners lost patience. A run of two wins in 11 games was deemed sub-standard form for a squad valued at over £200 million. The prospect of a semi-final against city rivals United in the Carling Cup was not enough to quench the glory thirsty Sheikh.
The swiftly appointed replacement is Roberto Mancini. The stylish Italian appears to have been in the frame since early November. Mancini certainly boasts an impressive record in Italy: Coppa Italia successes with Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter and also securing the Scudetto on three successive occasions with the Nerazzuri.
Whether he can transfer his managerial qualities successfully to the English Premier League remains to be seen. English football is of a different breed to the Italian game, despite bearing many similarities.
Undoubtedly the immense pressure he was under at Inter Milan will be replicated at the City of Manchester Stadium as he aims to carve the club’s name into the football annuals.
He was ultimately sacked by the Italian club for failing to achieve European glory. He would do well to clearly ascertain the targets for Manchester City.
Mark Hughes protests that the club was on track to meet their targets for the season: a sixth place finish or 70 points. When Hughes bundled his belonging out of Eastlands on Saturday, the club he left behind was firmly positioned in sixth place with 29 points; primed for an assault on the top four.
Discarding last season, if we inspect Hughes’ record so far this campaign, despite the obvious disappointment of seven successive draws, it makes for good reading.
Before they succumbed to a poor performance at White Harte Lane, City were unbeaten in the league except for a controversial late winner from Michael Owen in the Manchester derby.
It is difficult to see what merited the sacking of the Welshman.
Certainly there have questions raised about his side’s defence. They have been sloppy on occasions and let leads slip, but this is to be expected of a team which is still taking to time to mould itself into a cohesive unit.
Some of his signings have failed to ignite this season. Joleon Lescott has struggled while Wayne Bridge looks highly suspect at left back.
Yet despite these flaws, at times this season City have been a joy to watch. They play attacking, fluid football with the likes of Shaun Wright-Phillips and Craig Bellamy enjoying a renaissance under Hughes.
The current owners preached values which differed to the impulsive Thaksin Shinawatra. Throughout the turbulent times last year, the board gave their continued support to Hughes. They spoke of laying the groundwork for success and their belief in ‘loyalty’.
Yet the City chairmen, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, appointed by Mansour released this statement yesterday: “Two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set.”
He added: “Sheikh Mansour and the board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change.”
According to Hughes these ‘targets’ were achievable and the club was on course to fulfil the ambitions of the hierarchy at the club.
It will be intriguing to see how the squad will react to the appointment of Mancini. It has been suggested by some quarters of the media that Craig Bellamy is looking to leave the club, upset at the treatment of his boss.
The Italian will certainly stamp his style on Manchester City. At Inter he preferred to play a 4-3-1-2 formation and he will have the funds to shape his team in January.
The 45-year-old will be accustomed to the enormous pressures of success. After all Italy is renowned for the politics that run parallel to management and impatient chairmen who extinguish the reigns of their coaches with an alarmingly abruptness.
Mancini has all the tools to deliver success at City, but the question remains: will be given enough time to manufacture a trophy-winning side?