x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Success is City's mission

Mark Hughes remains acutely aware of the burden he shoulders in realising expectations, both fans' and owner's.

Manchester City manager Mark Hughes, left, with the club's chief executive Garry Cook at the new football pitch and City's official training headquarters in Abu Dhabi yesterday.
Manchester City manager Mark Hughes, left, with the club's chief executive Garry Cook at the new football pitch and City's official training headquarters in Abu Dhabi yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Mark Hughes is a man on a mission. Installed as Manchester City manager only weeks before Sheikh Mansour's takeover changed the club's destiny, Hughes remains acutely aware of the burden he shoulders in realising expectations, both fans' and owner's. "We want to bring success to Manchester City and to the Manchester region, but also to Abu Dhabi," said Hughes.

"We are grateful for what they have been able to do so far and what they have in mind - there is a huge debt of gratitude." Such is football, Hughes knows words count for little, it is results that do the talking. Those results should come easier thanks to the transfer kitty available to turn City into a domestic and European force. Without question, it is an industry changing sum. Were it not for Real Madrid's astronomical spending this summer, criticism directed at Hughes and City for supposedly ruining the transfer market's delicate financial dynamics would surely be more frequent.

Hughes repels the notion, insisting football lives in its own bubble. "At this moment in time, the football world is - and has been since its inception I would suggest - insulated from what happens in the wider world," he said. "Everyone is aware of the current economic situation in the world, so when we try to go about our business there will always be some people who look at the negative aspects of the amounts involved."

For all the expectations levied on Hughes to succeed, he knows spending is the only way to crack the monopoly at the summit of English football. "We have to do our business, which is having a squad of players which enables us to compete. To be able to do that, you've got to spend significant amounts of money," he said. He remains, however, aware of the implications. "It's something we are conscious of - I don't think we're brash with what we are trying to do."

Whatever his critics say, Hughes is an exponent of attacking football. You do not play for Manchester United and Barcelona if you are not, and his managerial record proves it. He led Wales to within a whisker of World Cup qualification, and after engineering Blackburn's unlikely escape from relegation, by producing a team who were hard to beat, he took Rovers to the brink of Europe with a team of attacking flair.

Hughes has signed two strikers to boost his goals return; attacking football requires attacking players after all. Despite Hughes's love of strikers, goals aren't City's problem. Only a derisory away record stopped them knocking on Europe's door last year. "Our away form was frustrating because the quality of football we produced at home was outstanding," he argued. "We always had a goal threat, but away from home we were too open.The attacking intent and the natural game of the players we had told, and we left ourselves exposed."

It's something Hughes is eager to fix and defensive recruits are top of his recruitment agenda. For now though, he's content with his lot. "I've got options now. Last year, we didn't have the strength in depth to be able to change things when they went wrong. "We are recognising where we need to improve and what types of players we need." What City need most right now is the right man at the helm. Hughes sounds like that man, but it will be his results which speak loudest.

emegson@thenational.ae