The sheikhs have raised the stakes. Defeat to Tottenham on Saturday killed off Manchester City's slim hopes of competing in the new Europa League next season, and with it went a potential carrot to entice new recruits to Eastlands.The goal now set by the club's owners Abu Dhabi United Group is to break into the top four next season. Mark Hughes has been reassured after a meeting with the chairman, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, on Friday that he will remain as manager for the next 12 months.
With Garry Cook's "Mark Hughes is our manager" comment, it does appear that Hughes will be in charge for the 2009/10 season and as regular readers will know, something that I do agree with.
Whilst there have been a number of frustrations throughout this season, equally there have been a number of strides and progressions made. The squad undoubtedly stronger (with the likelihood of further strengthening), off the field changes to the infrastructure of the club, and in addition having had a full season in charge with his backroom staff should lead to a stronger season next time round. Easy to forget of course how much upheaval off the field there was during his initital days and weeks in charge of the club.
There was an interesting quote from Garry Cook in the midst of his backing:
"I don't think necessarily getting into the Uefa Cup is going to change the impact of whether we are going to build," he said. "That is not going to make a difference. In fact, in some ways it might give us the chance to get to the next piece of rebuilding. We are relatively pleased with the year. It has given us a good chance to consolidate."This is something I threw out there a week or so ago in that not having the obvious distraction of the UEFA Cup/Europa League (as nice as it was) would benefit us in the league, and that for ADUG it was the Champions League that was the aim. I think we can assume that to now be the case.
Pressure has been one of the facets of the job that I'm sure Hughes has come to realise over the past nine months or so. At times he has been lucky to have remained in charge at the club this season, but having survived he is about to see that pressure cranked up more than a notch or two with a top four finish demanded of him, leading to 2009/10 being top four or bust.