City's new recruits get the most out of Africa
Winning South Africa's Vodacom Challenge was never likely to dislodge the banner which has been a fixture at Old Trafford's Stetford End since around the start of the millennium and presently reads, "33 years" – the number since Manchester City last won a serious trophy – but Mark Hughes would have valued delivering to Abu Dhabi just the scintilla of prestige which the tournament offers.
Instead, Manchester City lost for the second time in three games on tour yesterday, delivering Sir Alex Ferguson some self-satisfaction to awake to in Seoul. The trophy which United collected 12 months ago by thumping Kaizer Chiefs 4-0 was claimed not by the £115m assembled ranks of City but the self-same Chiefs after a 1-0 victory.
Hughes was in ebullient mood after a tour on which the bonding of his new players – a more fundamental requirement than results – has been self evident. Cast your eyes around the team hotel and you see that few of the new recruits are more popular than Roque Santa Cruz and that Gareth Barry, who comports himself like a future captain, has made it his business to know all his new team-mates.
Carlos Tevez is the worry. A player whose industry Hughes could have used here has turned his ankle after slipping in the shower in a hotel room, and though it is not a serious injury, this is contributing to the doubts over his appearance in next weekend's friendly against Barnsley.
Emmanuel Adebayor's sky blue boots suggested he was ready in every way for his debut. Arsenal fans were prepared to seek Adebayor out on the other side of the world with their banner: "Gooners celebrate, City – he is non refundable". They would have delighted, no doubt, in seeing the Togolese fire over after Barry had sent him through for City's best opportunity of this match.
But Adebayor played the full 90 minutes of his first game of the pre-season and offered more aerial threat than City have been accustomed to in recent years, for the first half at least.
And what of the players who might yet join the band? The questions about John Terry have been relentless this past week but Hughes ploughed on. "A lot of the good players out there are at clubs who don't have to do business with us," he said. "If the players we want are those who won't move to any great extent then we go with what we have." That said, the deafening silence from the Chelsea camp in North America, regarding Terry's future, is encouraging his pursuers at City.
Hughes' last South African questioner asked him if he feared he might soon be sacked. "Every manager has expectation on them. We live with that. Maybe I lived with it more than most last season but I'm comfortable," Hughes responded.
When you're the biggest spending team in the Premier League, you cannot even relax in the pre-season.
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