Mark Hughes said yesterday that he believes his former club Manchester City can win the Premier League title if they are prepared to be as attacking as they were in dispatching Hughes' Fulham 4-1 at Craven Cottage.
Roberto Mancini's team climbed to fourth place in the Premier League and trail the leaders Chelsea by just three points with 14 games played after the champions lost again to Birmingham City on Saturday. City's former manager Mark Hughes described his ex-club's performance yesterday as "the best they have played all season".
There were two goals from Carlos Tevez, now the Premier League's top scorer with nine goals, and two more from Pablo Zabaleta and Yaya Touré. Arsenal's defeat to Tottenham mean that City are just a point behind Arsène Wenger's third-placed team.
Hughes, who was sacked by City a year ago next month, said that yesterday represented arguably his former team's best performance of the season so far. "On their performance, certainly [City could win the title]. They were excellent.
"We were complicit in that, with the time we let them have. But they have got as good a chance as anybody.
"If they have the belief and there's forward-thinking and [they are] maybe more attack-minded as they were [against Fulham] on more occasions, there's no reason why they shouldn't be [contenders]"
Watched by Diego Maradona, at Craven Cottage as a guest of the Fulham owner, Mohammed al-Fayed, City belied their reputation as the cautious, defensive side who failed to take the game to Manchester United at home earlier this month.
Mancini shook Hughes' hand after the match despite their pre-match differences of opinion over the rights and wrongs of the way in which the former took the job. The City manager bemoaned the radical swings in opinion as to his merits as a manager capable of taking his extremely ambitious club forward.
Mancini said: "Last week I was a 'stupid manager' who was six points behind. Now, I am 'the best manager' because I'm only three points off the top of the league. This is not important. We must continue to work and improve every game, every day. Only that way can we win. If we have a big problem, a big crisis and we are only three points behind United and Chelsea, then we're doing well. But, in our minds, we must only think about working.
"This is always the way when you're a manager. If you win, you're top. If you lose, you're stupid. I know what happens [after the Fulham result], I'm the best. Last week, I was in the middle because I drew. I played football for 20 years and I've been a manager for 10. I know the way it works. I like it. I like my job, I like football. It's important that, when the squad played like today, it worked well.
"We must check at the end of the season. It doesn't bother me. It's impossible to say if you're the best manager or a stupid manager after 14 games. I always thought I was the best manager. In my career, where I stayed I won. But, usually, those managers who don't win are also good. It's important that the team plays football on the pitch."