Hughes haunted by lack of wins and spectre of Hiddink
Manchester City 1 Hull City 1
Monday 30 November 2009
Mark Hughes' position as Manchester City manager is not in imminent jeopardy but his club's Abu Dhabi owners are now looking for results in December as evidence that their £200m investment in players is money well spent.
The Al-Nahyan family want to see Hughes, a manager in whom they wish to continue putting trust, to prevail but the availability of Guus Hiddink since Russia's elimination from the 2010 World Cup has added pressure on the Welshman, who is aware he needs to start delivering more than the club's succession of seven draws.
Hiddink's success as manager at Chelsea last season demonstrated that he has the capability of moving in to manage an established group of highly paid players like those at Stamford Bridge and he would be a manager who could build on – rather than rebuild – what the Abu Dhabi United Group has created at Eastlands. The City chairman, Khaldoon al-Mubarak, was present to see this disappointing draw on Saturday and has agreed the target of a sixth-place finish with Hughes, who is at least in touch with that aspiration.
Chelsea at home next Saturday is a fixture which comes at an unwelcome time, though it is in the fixtures which follow that Hughes knows he and his players must really start to deliver. City travel to Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur, then entertain Sunderland and Stoke City before the trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers for the last game of the year. An away draw at Middlesbrough in the FA Cup in the new year is not the easiest tie.
It does not help that in four of the last five of City's seven straight draws, winning positions have been given away, which is what happened on Saturday, with the Blues surrendering their lead to a penalty eight minutes from full-time. City, resting Gareth Barry, had Robinho back, after three months missing, in a line-up driven by the dynamism of Carlos Tevez that did produce moments of sizzling attack. But Hughes could only be honest in his assessment. "At times we look accomplished and a threat, attacking-wise," he said. "At others we look what we are, a team that has been brought together quickly."
Others at least share his view of City's potential, among them Jimmy Bullard, who scored Hull's equaliser and led a hilarious celebration in honour of their beleaguered manager Phil Brown, mocking last season's on-field dressing-down administered by him on the same pitch.
"If you don't hit the back of the net it counts for nothing, I suppose, but they are a class act and whenever they have the ball you are scared," Bullard said. "You've got Robinho, Tevez and Adebayor up there and you think, 'Hold up, what's going to happen?'
"It's only a matter of time before it starts to click and I don't think it will be very long."
After the meeting with Arsenal in the Carling Cup on Wednesday, City's game against Chelsea at Eastlands next Saturday will be taken as a measure of where they are.
Manchester City (4-1-3-2): Given; Richards, Touré, Lescott, Bridge; De Jong; Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Robinho (Bellamy, 75); Adebayor (Santa Cruz, 67), Tevez. Substitutes not used: Taylor (gk), Onuoha, Johnson, Kompany, Weiss.
Hull City (4-4-1-1): Duke; McShane, Zayatte, Gardner, Dawson; Garcia, Marney (Boateng 62), Bullard, Hunt; Geovanni (Barmby, 61); Altidore (Vennegoor of Hesselink, 73). Substitutes not used: Myhill (gk), Kilbane, Mouyokolo, Ghilas.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire).
Bookings: Manchester City De Jong; Hull Dawson, McShane, Zayatte.
Man of the match: Tevez.
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