Manchester City defend sacking of manager Mark Hughes

Man City reject ‘conspiracy theory’ over Hughes sacking

Manchester City have defended the sacking of former boss Mark Hughes and dismissed the “conspiracy theories” surrounding the Welshman’s departure.

As new City manager Roberto Mancini was presented to the media for the first time, chief executive Garry Cook was challenged to explain Hughes’ exit.

Cook rejected the “conjecture” and also denied rumours of player unrest.

“There was no player rebellion, the staff are going about their business today as usual,” he insisted.

Mancini’s first news conference as City boss was overshadowed by hostile questions aimed at Cook regarding the way Hughes was dismissed after only 18 months in charge.

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Hughes, 46, was told he was being axed moments after his side had beaten Sunderland 4-3 on Saturday.

City lie sixth in the Premier League and have been beaten only twice in the league this season.

They are also through to the Carling Cup semi-finals, where they will face Manchester United.

Yet City’s owners felt that the side were not making enough progress under Hughes following a heavy spending spree on players such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Gareth Barry, and were unlikely to meet a pre-agreed 70-point target.

“The targets were agreed as a result of the player acquisition strategy of the club being radically accelerated in the summer,” said Cook.

“A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set.

“Sheikh Mansour and the board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change.”

Cook claimed the decision to replace Hughes was first discussed after City’s 1-1 draw with Hull on 28 November while the decision to appoint Mancini was not finalised until after the 3-0 loss to Tottenham on 16 December.

“I think it is important to know that Roberto was only offered the job after the Spurs game,” said Cook, reading from a pre-prepared statement.

“We negotiated on Thursday, finalised an agreement on Friday and he was not in the stadium on Saturday as was falsely reported.”

Mark Hughes applaudes the Manchester City crowd
Mark Hughes applauds the City crowd following the win over Sunderland

Rumours suggesting Hughes was about to be sacked were widespread on Friday, and the speed at which City appointed Mancini has fuelled speculation the club had decided to change managers weeks ago.

Mancini later admitted he had met with City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak a fortnight ago to discuss football “in general”.

“They wanted to speak with me about Inter Milan and other teams,” said the former Inter Milan boss.

But Cook insisted City had conducted themselves correctly.

“There seems to be an overwhelming theory that there was a conspiracy. There was no conspiracy,” he said.

“Like any other business we have plans and targets, and we have contingencies for when those plans and targets are not being met.

“The chairman has been nothing but transparent with Mark throughout his tenure and the decision to end it was a unanimous one taken by the chairman, myself and the board.”

Cook said City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak flew to England in order to relieve Hughes of his duties in a face-to-face conversation rather than inform him by telephone, fax, text or e-mail.

“The intention was to tell Mark immediately after the game on Saturday,” explained Cook.

“Regrettably, and despite our best efforts, rumours of discussions with Roberto Mancini became public before the game.

“Once Mark was informed, I informed his coaching staff and the players were then informed.”

As Cook refused to answer any questions, he did not address the issue of why Hughes was not simply sacked on Wednesday or Thursday as City moved for Mancini.

And neither could Cook explain why Hughes was not spared the humiliation that unfolded on Saturday despite the fact that Al Mubarak arrived in England at 10am – five hours before kick-off.

Caught in the crossfire of questions regarding the club’s behaviour towards Hughes, Mancini spoke almost fluent English and smiled throughout the tense news conference.

My target is to arrive in the top four… next year we want to win the Premier League
Roberto Mancini

He expressed sympathy for Hughes but said added: “This is our job, the job of a manager.”

When he was finally able to talk about his plans for City, Mancini said he hoped to lead the club to a top-four finish this season, adding that he had not been given a target.

“My squad usually play to win, always. My target is to arrive in the top four – but it’s my objective, my target. I think it’s possible,” he said. “Next year we want to win the Premier League.”

He added: “City is a big club. I want to stay here for many, many years and I want to contribute to winning many trophies because City has great supporters and I hope we do a good job for them.

“My job is to work hard every day to improve the play, to improve the victories. This is all.”

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