Angry reaction to Hughes sacking in England as foreign owners accused of impatience.
|Mancini enjoys the spotlight as City CEO Garry Cook denies ‘conspiracy theories’ [GALLO/GETTY]|
Manchester City coach Roberto Mancini has wasted no time in setting his targets for the world’s richest football club.
Mancini wants to lift the English Premier League title next season, and in the shorter term has set his sights on a top-four finish for the perennial underachievers, telling a news conference his immediate goal is to qualify the club for the Champions League for the first time.
Only 48 hours after Mark Hughes was fired for not being on the right “trajectory,” Mancini insisted that City owner Sheikh Mansour had not set him a definite target for the season.
“My target is to arrive in the top four – but it’s my objective, my target,” the Italian said in broken English.
“I think it’s possible. Next year we want to win the Premier League,” said Mancini who revived Inter Milan’s fortunes by claiming three successive Serie A titles from 2006-08.
“I hope to stay here for many, many years and win many trophies because I think City has great supporters.”
Mancini, sacked by Inter at the end of the 2007-08 season, was named City manager in whirlwind fashion on Saturday after Hughes was sacked following the 4-3 home win over Sunderland.
Hughes left with City sitting sixth in the Premier League after spending more $330 million on new players, just six points behind fourth place with a game in hand.
The circumstances surrounding Hughes’ departure overshadowed Mancini’s unveiling, as City chief executive Garry Cook insisted: “There is no conspiracy.”
Cook faced some intense questioning from reporters at the news conference.
Cook had said that the “decision to look at managerial options was taken only three weeks ago” after a 1-1 draw against lowly Hull, while maintaining that Mancini hadn’t been offered the job until after a 3-0 loss against fifth-place Tottenham on Wednesday.
But after Mancini revealed that he had met City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak two weeks ago, Cook backtracked and said that “managerial position was discussed in general terms” over that dinner.
Mancini said he had sympathy for the man he replaced but relished the prospect of trying to lead City out of the shadows of their more illustrious city rivals United.
“I am proud to get the job because City is a good club with good players,” he said.
“Manchester is similar to Milan in its football passion.
“In Milan there are two big teams there fighting for supremacy and silverware and here it is the same. I like the challenge of that”
“In Milan there are two big teams there fighting for supremacy and silverware and here it is the same. I like the challenge of that.”
Mancini’s title with Inter in 2006 was the club’s first Scudetto since 1989 and ended more than a decade of playing second fiddle to AC Milan.
Time will not necessarily be on Mancini’s side at a club who last won a trophy 33 years ago and live in the shadow of powerful neighbours Manchester United.
While Alex Ferguson has lifted 25 major trophies in 23 years at United, City have had 14 different permanent managers during that time – including Mancini.
However, with millions of dollars of investment in City after the takeover by Arab billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, expectations have risen sharply, so much so that despite being in sixth place in the league Hughes was sacked.
“I’m sorry for Mark but when we start the job this situation is always possible,” said Mancini. “I think I can do a good job because we have good players.”
|Can Mancini muster some enthusiasm in lacklustre Robinho? [GALLO/GETTY]|
Mancini, a striker in his playing days, said he would adopt an attacking style, adding Brazilian Robinho was an integral part of his plans.
“We have five or six top players in attack. There are many options,” he said.
“Robinho can make history for Man City like I wrote the history at Sampdoria. For me this is important.”
Mancini is yet to decide which areas need strengthening in the January transfer window. Cash shouldn’t be a problem for City’s wealthy owner.
Finding the players might be for Mancini.
The frailties are primarily in central defence. Joleon Lescott, whom Hughes relentlessly pursued from Everton, is out for two months because of knee surgery, while Ivory Coast international Kolo Toure will miss most of next month due to the African Cup of Nations.
While Robinho started Sheikh Mansour’s spending spree – beating Chelsea to his signature as clear a statement of intent – the Brazil forward has failed to live up to his price tag – he was signed from Madrid last year for a British record transfer fee of then $51 million.
After spending most of this season out injured, he has made little impact on his return. However, Barcelona said on Monday that City had rejected an offer for the Brazilian ahead of the January transfer window.
“Robinho is a fantastic player,” Mancini said in response to questions about the former Real Madrid player’s willingness to play for the club.