Mark Hughes was defiant yesterday in the face of attacks from Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin O'Neill and said that Manchester City did not care about the criticism that their transfer policy has attracted this season. The City manager also said his club would bid again for Joleon Lescott after a second offer of £19m was rejected.
Having also endured criticism from Phil Neville yesterday for City's pursuit of Everton's Lescott, Hughes said he had been prepared for the backlash against City for some time. However he said that even the reaction to spending more than £95m on six players this summer was nothing compared to the "thick skin" he had to develop last season when his future was a constant source of discussion.
Hughes said: "We know that is going to happen this season and we have already talked about it between ourselves so we're ready for it. The only way we can stop people having negative things to say about us is by winning football matches and, even then, we will probably get negative comments.
"All the expectation will be on us, a hell of a lot of focus, but we have come to deal with that. We had 12 months of it last year and that was when we didn't have players with the ability to get to those expectations. We've got a better chance and we have to live up to those expectations now."
Last week Ferguson dismissed City as a "small club with a small mentality" for their part in a city centre poster "welcoming" Carlos Tevez to Manchester but Hughes said that he believed his former manager had failed to recognise the spirit in which the joke had been intended.
"I've got great respect for him [Ferguson]," Hughes said. "I think he got a little upset about our poster campaign – although to call it a campaign is wrong because there was only one.
"It was really just a bit of fun between the two sets of supporters and I think it was taken in that manner. I didn't get too het up about it but obviously Sir Alex did. I've seen those comments [about City overpaying for players] but I've said before that our valuation could well be different from other clubs. It's obviously different to Sir Alex's valuation but, to us, these players are invaluable. We feel we have done good deals on every player."
Hughes said the club needed another "top-quality" centre-back especially because Vincent Kompany, who has played in that position, would not be fit until October. "We put in bids we think are realistic, we may have pitched at the wrong level and Everton obviously feel that is the case," he said. "I obviously have admiration for what I feel Lescott can bring us but if we're not able to come to an agreement with Everton that's as far as it goes. It's entirely up to Everton because he's their player."
There was also a barb for O'Neill who has lost Gareth Barry to City. Hughes said the Aston Villa manager's claims that City should win the Premier League given their level of investment were self-serving. "There are a number of managers in and around us that possibly use our situation to lessen the expectation of their own club and Martin isn't the only manager to say we should win the title," Hughes said. "It just maybe eases the pressure a little bit on them."
Speaking for the first time about the failure to sign John Terry from Chelsea, Hughes once again underlined just how close the England captain was to a move despite his recent protestations. He said: "Chelsea were very adamant in their stance and worked exceptionally hard to make JT understand his value to them. He was under a lot of pressure to make a decision and he's come out and decided to stay, so we have to respect that."
In a rather more tortuous explanation for his departure from Arsenal, City's new signing Kolo Touré said that it was the "love" that City showed him that persuaded him to move. Although for love, it would be politic to read "money". Touré said: "They've showed that they really want me and I'm really happy. I've always said that when you love a woman and she gives you the love back, you're really happy and that's what it's like with Manchester City. They've given me the love and I'm delighted to give the love back."
City's Brazilian midfielder Elano has joined Galatasaray in a deal believed to be worth around £6m.
The millions of pounds that Mark Hughes has spent on six players so far this summer.