Lets break this down specifically. First and foremost this is the right move. I soured on Hughes early and often. Unlike a lot in the anti Hughes faction his former affiliation with Manchester United had no bearing on my thoughts. What got me started was the decision to continue Sven Goran Eriksson's folly of playing Darius Vassell.
That this decision was made at the expense of Elano only compounded Hughes' mistake as he also lost the Brazilian from that point on. As far as I was concerned Hughes was toast on December 10th last year when he started criticizing the fans for complaining about Vassell being in the starting eleven.
In the transfer market Hughes was pretty much a success, my concerns about Lescott not withstanding. If Robinho was fostered on the manager by the ownership the pick up of Bellamy, Bridge, Given and de Jong in the January transfer window was an inspired group even at inflated prices. Bridge has struggled it's true but an England international looking to play regularly to make the World Cup squad is a reasonable gamble.
Then this summer the arrival of Barry, RSC, Tevez, Adebayor and Toure was building a useful squad. Only Lescott seemed a stretch. Expensive certainly however combined with the incumbents City had, and has, a depth that few can match in the Premier League.
Yet for all that good work there were the constant issues. Formations and tactics seemed suspect at best. Stephen Ireland who last year was one of the best players in the Premier League was suddenly no longer a force and there was little noticeable in game tactical savvy. This was a team that should have been playing others off the park regardless of the issues of how long they had played together or whether or not the team had an understanding.
And that they didn't is because of one specific fateful decision. No doubt the board now probably regrets Elano was sold rather than being loaned out. Or more accurately selling Elano and not replacing the skills that Brazilian midfielder possesses in the squad prior to the closing of the transfer window.
Still with everything that was frustrating about Hughes this was the wrong time. And let's be blunt here, City are in 6th despite Hughes not because of him. The team without a creative playmaker has little chance of making the Champions League given the tactics and player selections that were being made. What happened was that a season where the specific goal of 6th or better has suddenly become, because of Liverpool's ineptitude under Rafa, an opportunity to qualify for the Champions League this year, not next. Mancini represents a roll of the dice that City can snag that spot.
Why the impatience? It's not as if the board needs the money to finance the club. The implication from the start of the new owners was that they had a specific graduated plan in place that involved starting the process last year, 6th or better this year and then Champions League next year moving forward all whilst building. Progress was being made. If Hughes had indicated that he didn't need a creative midfielder in this upcoming transfer window then maybe I can see the move being made now, but otherwise it seems fundamentally wrong to give a manager a target and then remove them even though they are meeting that target. And again I don't like Hughes and didn't want him as the manager long term but this sets a precedent that is inappropriate. The time to make this evaluation was at the end of the season not before the January transfer window when world class players seldom move.
To compound the poor timing is the way that City appear to have gone about the removal. If even half of what is filtering out is true then City ownership and the executive management has a lot to answer for. It's been alleged that Mancini has had a deal in place for almost 3 weeks with the powers that be just waiting for the right time to strike. That's disingenuous at best. From the reaction of Mark Hughes at the end of the Sunderland game it appeared that he knew that this was his last game and I actually felt sorry for the guy. There seems to have been a complete lack of class and openness from Garry Cook and Khaldoon Al Mubarak. Those two should take a long look in the mirror this morning and decide if this is really the way they want to go through life. When you make Mike Ashley of Newcastle look professional that's pretty pathetic.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing allowing you to look back on mistakes and say that is was obvious. What was and is so noticeable about Hughes was that you could with consistence call out his mistakes as they happened and then watch somewhat disbelievingly as they came true time after time. Hughes is a good mid table premier league manager with an eye to a bargain in the transfer market. He's all about graft and character and getting the best out of limited resources, both financial and individual. He lacked, it seems to me, the imagination to succeed when given unlimited resources.
Ultimately I wanted Hughes gone but this is a short sighted decision. Although made before the transfer window and giving Mancini the opportunity to build his own team, messing with the squad in mid season with a new philosophy and players is a bad idea. Hughes frustrated me, constantly. But there was a glimmer of hope. The base squad is very good and it needs that one creative spark to unleash a quality team. I have my doubts as to whether Hughes even understood that he needed such a player having exiled the only player in his squad with those skills.
Over the course of the next few days we will learn more about Mancini and his tactics. I don't follow the Italian leagues, not least because their players so rarely come to the Premier League, but my understanding is that Mancini prefers a 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond anchored by an attacking midfielder. Off hand I can't think of a worse formation for the current personnel that the club has at its disposal. The strength of Bellamy, Petrov, SWP, Weiss and even Ireland is playing out wide which such a tactic discourages.
I also want to touch on the Sunderland game. Must have been a fantastic game for any neutral watching given the amount of ups and downs from a fan perspective. Bellamy was fantastic, quite possibly playing the best football in the entire Premier League at the moment which is an astonishing statement to contemplate never mind write. But what struck me was that every time City tried to pass the ball that the flowing moves started to happen. Tevez who has been notoriously poor at passing this season was in on the act from the start constantly looking up not least to play in Bellamy for the first City goal from RSC. Speaking of whom, the Paraguayan also was looking to play in his team mates at every opportunity and was rewarded with two tap in goals.
Sure it was a shambles at the back but there is a reason that established managers and players talk about it taking time for teams to gel. But going forward there was that tantalizing spark where you can see the day when City will do to a team what Spurs achieved against Wigan a few weeks ago. One player away is where I think City are and now the club have the prospect of a new manager potentially starting over quickly without the benefit of a couple of months study and decision making that would happen with such a move in the summer.
I've mentioned previously that Michael Laudrup was the manager that I wanted City to bring in next summer. Not least because as a proponent of the 4-2-3-1 system who prefers speedy wingers Laudrup could have tinkered with the current squad and brought instant success. Mancini is more of a gamble and with Mourinho almost certainly available this summer a reported three and a half year contract seems overly generous.
Mancini starts with a clean slate for me, as did Hughes. the Italian will be judged on what tactics he plays and team selections given the squad he has inherited.
Update Hughes has released a statement saying that he didn't know that a decision had been made. His body language at the end of the Sunderland game seemed to indicate otherwise but I take Hughes at his word.