Manchester City manager Mark Hughes has accused the Match of the Day pundits who delivered a withering assessment of Wayne Bridge at the weekend of seizing any chance to submit players to public criticism without first watching complete match videos.
Alan Hansen was outspoken in his critique of £12m Bridge's weaknesses in the 3-3 draw against Burnley, declaring: "I just feel sorry for him because he played that badly," and assessing Bridge and £24m Joleon Lescott's marks out of 10 as "minus six".
Hughes was indignant as he took a City squad to Abu Dhabi yesterday. "Pundits on Match of the Day or whatever just have an opportunity to nail individuals in the public domain," the manager said. "But we won't single out individual players. That job is done by pundits. I'm sure that their process involves looking at incidents in games but not taking it as a whole.
"That's the role in life that they have decided to follow and that's the way it has to be. There's a frustration when they don't go into particularly in-depth analysis. I'd question how many games they actually watch live, from the start to the conclusion. Everybody knows that's the case, so we're not going to harp on about it."
Ashley Cole's injury means Bridge, or Aston Villa's Stephen Warnock, could play for England against Brazil in Doha on Saturday. Bridge's failure to track back contributed to Burnley's first two goals and the ball bounced off the back of his head into David Nugent's path to set up an 87th-minute equaliser, leading Hughes to concede on Saturday evening that the player he signed from Chelsea in January "maybe on a couple of occasions made the wrong decisions".
City have kept one clean sheet since August but Hughes believes the club – who have still only lost to Manchester United this season – are becoming an easy target for commentators since the club's Arabian owners took over.
"We are under more scrutiny than any previous Manchester City team, but it's open to debate as to whether we are scrutinised more than Manchester United, Chelsea or whoever," he said. "We have to deal with it. If we don't win, we are open to criticism. If we draw, it isn't enough, but in the past, a draw for Man City in certain games would be viewed as a positive. That's the difference."
Hughes also waded into another potential dispute, with his old employers from the Welsh Football Association (FAW), by suggesting that the time might have come for Craig Bellamy to follow Ryan Giggs' lead and focus purely on club football.
Bellamy, 30, the current Welsh captain and City's outstanding player this season, flew out to the Middle East yesterday morning, despite having been withdrawn from the Welsh squad to face Scotland at the weekend.
City incurred Welsh manager John Toshack's wrath in September by failing to inform the FAW that Bellamy would not be travelling to face Russia in a World Cup qualifier.
Asked if Bellamy, nursing a groin strain, might step down from Wales, Hughes said: "As time goes on, there could be that situation. Craig knows his body better than anybody else and when he feels he needs a break. I think that's how it will be in the future and it will be better for him and them [Wales] because it will enable him to ensure that his career runs its course and is as long as it can be."
Hughes is also determined to keep Robinho with the entourage, though he accepts Brazil's wish to fly him out to Doha on Wednesday, accompanied by a City doctor, to check out his fitness ahead of the England friendly. Robinho's stress fracture to his ankle has kept him out since August and Hughes believes it would be "crazy" to throw him into Saturday's fixture. "We will go through the protocol and make sure he is there [with Brazil] when he needs to be there and get checked out by their medical people," Hughes said.
City, who touched down here last night ahead of the official opening of their new winter training facility today and a match against an Abu Dhabi XI on Thursday, have also taken Stephen Ireland and Pablo Zabaleta of their regular first team.
‘Schoolboy defending’: What Alan Hansen said
From Match of the Day: “Down the left-hand side you just couldn’t believe what was going on… with [Joleon] Lesott and [Wayne] Bridge. When you talk defensively about organisation and communication, position, playing off one another and playing as a team, the marks out of 10 are minus-six. They were that bad. From top-class players I just could not believe it. It was schoolboy defending for the third goal. [You think] my God what is going on here? I mean, where’s the anticipation? I just feel sorry for [Wayne Bridge] because he played that badly. You tend to be critical but you just feel sorry for him.”