Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

David Healy: Top four or bust for Hughes at Manchester City

When Manchester City splashed the cash to the tune of over £100 million they made clear their intentions for the season — Champions League football at the worst.

Many have tried and failed to break up the Big Four in recent years but there has never been a threat with so much financial clout behind it.

What I like about what Mark Hughes has done though, is the type of player he has signed; he hasn’t just gone for a big star that may be available.

Instead, he has taken his time and decided where he wants to strengthen his squad and he has managed to bring in some terrific players.

Shay Given is one of the best goalkeepers in the world in my opinion and when you add the likes of Joleon Lescott, Kolo Toure, Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong, Carlos Tevez and Emannuel Adebayor they really are a force to be reckoned with.

And they aren’t the only ones. Aston Villa and Tottenham will also fancy their chances and spoiling the party for Champions League places come the end of the season. In my opinion neither of them are on a par with City, and if Hughes wants to add to his squad again in January for that final push, I’m sure the money will be made available.

I saw Villa first hand this week when they beat Sunderland on penalties in the Carling Cup and, if I’m being honest, they are nowhere near close enough on that showing.

It would be wrong to judge them on that one showing however and I think it’s great how Martin O’Neill is putting together such a strong group of young British talent when it is easier to buy foreign players.

Spurs are probably on a par with Villa. When you look at the money they’ve spent over the past couple of years, you think they maybe should have broken into the top four but they haven’t been able to step up to that next level.

Harry Redknapp has changed a lot at White Hart Lane though, but I still think City are ahead of them.

As exciting as City can be, however, I still don’t think they will be good enough over the entire season to finish even fourth.

They were 2-0 up against Fulham and ended up drawing last week – the top four don’t do that.

Everyone thought Liverpool were on the slide but they showed when they need a big performance they can produce the goods.

Mark Hughes must be enjoying the roller coaster ride though. But, with the financial backing comes a lot of pressure.

The club’s owners will be expecting a Champions League place and I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted a piece of silverware too.

Football is a cruel game at times and if City don’t do either, how long will Sparky last? I think he is the perfect man for the job there but football doesn’t work like that.

You only have to look at Chelsea sacking Claudio Ranieri when Roman Abramovich lost patience in not winning the title.

If City don’t mange to disturb the Big Four, there could be changes.

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