M&M – The massive difference between Manuel and Mark – Man City v Stoke City

Manchester City’s meteoric evolution comes into sharp perspective today when Manuel Pellegrini’s side face Stoke, managed by Mark Hughes, the City boss when ‘the money’ first swept in from Abu Dhabi.

The speed of change since September 2008 at the then named, City of Manchester Stadium, means it’s more apt to describe the Sky Blues’ transformation, as revolutionary, but like many historical revolts, things didn’t always go to plan.

Ex-Boss - Mark Hughes returns to the Etihad today

Ex-Boss – Mark Hughes returns to the Etihad today

Hughes was appointed during the weird, and perhaps not so wonderful, reign of Thaksin Shinawatra, the highly controversial ex-Prime Minister of Thailand.

For all his failings and shortcomings, and there were oh so many, the comedically named ‘Frank’ Shinawatra, did eventually broker the deal that helped put City under the safe and secure stewardship of Sheikh Mansour.

For that, every City fan should be thankful…but that’s about the extent of their gratitude to the Thai tycoon, who ruled his country between 2001-2006, before being overthrown by a military coup.

He appointed dear old Sven ‘lock up your daughters, wives & sisters’ Goran Eriksson, for one bizarre season in 2007, prior to sacking the Swede and bringing in Hughes from Blackburn in the summer of 2008.

Old Blue Eyes - 'Frank' Shinawatra recruited Hughes as City manager.

Old Blue Eyes – ‘Frank’ Shinawatra recruited Hughes as City manager.

Leslie Mark Hughes – the Welshman does so detest being called Leslie – was always an uncomfortable fit at City, never able to ingratiate himself to the fans, the majority of whom could never quite get past his playing career as an outstanding centre forward with The Dark Side over in Manuresville Traffordzonia.

But, credit where it’s due, Hughes had the transfer acumen to recruit some outstanding players including those who have since become legends, namely Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta at a combined cost of £13.2 million. Conversely he also recruited Tal Ben Haim, before City starting ‘shopping’ with the petro-chemicals Abu Dhabi-driven cheque book.

Good buy - Hughes should be credited with buying City's Captain Kompany for just £6.7m.

Good buy – Hughes should be credited with buying City’s Captain Kompany for just £6.7m.

Robinho arrived for a British transfer record of £32.5m on transfer deadline day – Hughes had next-to-nothing to do with the errant Brazilian’s arrival – it was always a flamboyant statement of intent by the Abu Dhabi owners, and so the stage was set for an orgy of spending, where Leslie ultimately fell short of the mark.

The 2009-10 campaign was going well with the likes of Craig Bellamy, Nigel De Jong and Carlos Tevez at the vanguard, but results stagnated with a run of seven straight draws and Hughes was unceremoniously sacked on December 19, 2009.

Never a favourite with the fans, the poor handling of his dismissal, perhaps the one blot on City Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak’s time at the club, won Hughes some sympathy, but by then he was history and his demise cushioned by a lucrative fiscal settlement.

Simply the best - Sheikh Mansour is a dream owner and Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak an excellent leader for City.

Simply the best – Sheikh Mansour is a dream owner and Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak an excellent leader for City.

Fast forward to now – just four months shy of five years – and the Etihad outfit are a triumph under magnificent Manuel.

Notwithstanding the mandatory dodgy Champions League draw that rewards City with an uphill challenge every season, the club is on a trajectory that sees anti-vertigo tablets as a ‘must’ in the staple diet of the Cityzens of Manchester.

It’s the stuff that Hughes must have dreamed would one day have been his as the manager of Manchester City. The reality is that Leslie and Manuel are several classes apart.

Together -  Manuel celebrates the title with Zaba - one of Mark Hughes' best buys for City. Courtesy @MCFC

Together – Manuel celebrates the title with Zaba – one of Mark Hughes’ best buys for City. Courtesy @MCFC

In subsequent stints with Fulham, QPR and now Stoke, Hughes has never tasted what would undoubtedly be a very sweet success, over his former employers,

He came nerve-shreddingly close as Rangers led 2-1 going into added time, prior to the ‘Aguerrrrroooo Moment’ on May 13, 2012, but that’s about it.

City need to ensure it stays that way today as they build on a 100% start to their title defence. History and recent form certainly favours the hosts.

Having won seven consecutive Premier League games, a win today would take them to within a victory of equalling a club record nine league wins on the bounce, set in 1912, slightly before the Abu Dhabi takeover.

Hit it! - Sergio has his best shooting boots on this season.Courtesy@MCFC

Hit it! – Sergio has his best shooting boots on this season.Courtesy@MCFC

Since returning to the top flight of English football Stoke have lost on all six visits to the Etihad and have yet to score.

The Potters went down 1-0 last February to a 70th minute Yaya Toure strike, but they succeeded in giving City an uncomfortable afternoon. Most opponents had succumbed to rugby score defeats at Fortress Etihad.

With Edin Dzeko declared fit after a thigh injury sustained in the 3-1 win over Liverpool, Sergio Aguero approaching match fitness levels and Stevan Jovetic in fine form, Stoke would do well to keep a clean sheet, stemming a run of conceding in each of their last 12 away fixtures.

1-0 - Yaya acclaims his winner against Stoke last February. Courtesy @MCFC

1-0 – Yaya acclaims his winner against Stoke last February. Courtesy @MCFC

Pellegrini has the sort of selection headache any manager would welcome. Having seen his side pick up six points without really having to get out of third gear, does the City boss introduce some new blood into the line-up?

Bacary Sagna and Frank Lampard would love to make their City debuts, but it appears £32m centre back Eliaquim Mangala is still shy of match fitness levels.

Alvaro Negredo remains City’s only long term absentee, so who gets the nod up front? Aguero is world class, Jovetic is virtually on fire and Dzeko is as good as reborn under their Chilean commander.

Lamps looking good - Will Frank make his Premier League debut for City today? Courtesy@MCFC

Lamps looking good – Will Frank make his Premier League debut for City today? Courtesy@MCFC

Does Aleksander Kolarov get the nod over Gael Clichy at left back this afternoon, despite the Frenchman’s recent magnificent performances? Surely Fernando stays in against a side who can still ‘mix it’ despite Hughes’ attempts to refine the traditional Stoke style?

Pellegrini knows best, the team sheet will look good whoever gets the nod comes 15.00hrs.

City are supremely confident, a vibe that should not be confused with complacent or misconstrued as arrogant. If they are to win back-to-back Premier League crowns these are the games that have to be won – indeed, every home game needs to climax in three points banked.

Engineering success - MP is determined to retain the PL title and maximum points at the Etihad are vital. Courtesy@MCFC

Engineering success – MP is determined to retain the PL title and maximum points at the Etihad are vital. Courtesy@MCFC

So much has been said and written about the Abu Dhabi millions, billions and zillions since August 31, 2008, most of it in an anti-Manchester City manner, motivated by a green-eyed perspective at City’s new found ‘green-backed’ good fortune.

City supporters give not a jot for the jealousy and malevolence of their club’s detractors.

Those who begrudge the long suffering fans – some of the most loyal and stoical in all the land and all the world – are nothing more than hypocrites, embittered ‘bankers’, who’d have had their club do EXACTLY the same, had they been given the chance.

Kompany man - Captain Fantastic hit City's last goal of last season as City swept to the top. Courtesy @MCFC

Kompany man – Captain Fantastic hit City’s last goal of last season as City swept to the top. Courtesy @MCFC

Anybody and everybody associated with Manchester City understands how supremely lucky the club is to have been the ‘chosen one’ – the Premier League club, selected for purchase by Sheikh Mansour.

A small deposit of another three points towards the retention of the title is all they seek today.


By David Walker


Dedicated to the memory of the kindest, loving and dearest man I will ever know – Joseph Colin Walker – who died on this date August 30th, 1996. To say it was a privilege to call you ‘DAD’ doesn’t come anywhere close to conveying my love, admiration and respect – a beautiful human being and top top journalist.

www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu


  1. August 30, 2014  9:20 am by Mark Turner Reply

    Another beautifully written article David, incisive, witty and relevant as always. Your father would indoubtedly ooze pride in reading every word. What a wonderful dilemma for Our MP, personally I would love to see Stevan and Sergio get a game together to witness the chaos this would cause in an oppositions defence. Here's hoping.

    • August 30, 2014  10:22 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks MT - much appreciated. If only I could be half the man or writer that my Dad was I'd be doing alright. City do look very strong at the moment and all the upgrades achieved on a net spend of approx £30m - the price of DiMaria's ankle bone.

  2. August 30, 2014  9:23 am by Toby Teasdale Reply

    Good morning early bird.

    The metamorphis from Mark (don't forget the OBE which he had painted on his car parking space at Carrington) to Manolo also included Mancini, with Marwood hovering like a bad smell in the background.

    I expect Leslie (a unisex name if ever there was one) to pack his midfield Pullis style, which is probably why Stoke have found it difficult scoring against us at the Etihad.

    Our wider pitch (Etihad 105 by 68 metres, Britannia's 100 by 64 metres) negates their only serious threat which is our penalty area being mortared by long throw-ins.

    Oh for a Dobing, Eastham or Viollet!

    Enjoy the game!

    • August 30, 2014  10:29 am by David Walker Reply

      Morning TT. Couldn't write last night after 6.5hr drive from Manchester - most spent sitting in traffic jams - it'd have been more gibberish than usual! Dare one ask what that version of OBE represented?

  3. August 30, 2014  9:31 am by Graham Ward Reply

    I think our excellent home record against Stoke will continue today - several changes for me, with plenty of big games lined up shortly.
    Sagna, Kolarov, Fernie, Navas in, Aguero eased in later on - a 2-0 City win for me.

    • August 30, 2014  10:32 am by David Walker Reply

      Sounds good - I'll take it

  4. August 30, 2014  9:56 am by susan richardson Reply

    The selection 'dilema' I think sums up the brilliant planning and it is sticking in the craw of the rag loving hacks to acknowledge this although I did read some actually being outraged on our behalf by that terrible Champions league draw. We will of course triumph today against Stoke!

    • August 30, 2014  10:36 am by David Walker Reply

      Maybe the media are 'softening' because they know they're onto a loser - City are only going in one direction - TO INFINITY & BEYOND - well, Berlin next Spring will do dor starters!

  5. August 30, 2014  10:01 am by Gil Riley Reply

    Another very witty and compelling article with a beautifully touching dedication.

    • August 30, 2014  10:38 am by David Walker Reply

      Thanks Gil, he was so much a better man than me.

  6. August 30, 2014  10:27 am by Richard Cooper Reply

    A few quick lines
    It is, as you said, correct to praise Agent Sparky for buying Kompany, Zabaleta and De Jong - for that he deserves our respect
    I read the Martin Samuel article on the Champions League seedig system. I can only add that it is strange that, for instance, Arsenal, who apart from the FA Cup last season haven't won a trophy for years, and if I am correct have had to qualify more than once, are in Pot 1. The tournament title of Champions League is certainly a misnomer.
    I intended to comment on the middle of the stands lighting extravaganza (that shocking pink was awful ) I found it a bit distracting. No doubt we will get used to it - Perhaps I am just a grumpy old man !
    We had to have a washing machine man out early this morning and as we live in South Cheahire where there a more than a few Stokies his parting shot was "Hope Stoke stuff you this afternoon" - I hope to bump in to him next week after, hopefully a 2-0 or 3-0 win

    • August 30, 2014  10:41 am by David Walker Reply

      I have to plead ignorance on the pink lighting & take the 5th on any red lighting ;-) cheers RC.

  7. August 30, 2014  11:12 am by Stephen welch Reply

    excellent article David.I Am sure your Dad is up there watching the Blues like my Dad.He died at the Etihad derby in 2010.Like you said just green eyed jealousy and EVERY club in the land would love a billionaire like we have.

    • August 31, 2014  12:54 am by David Walker Reply

      Bloody hell Stephen - it's one thing losing your Dad but to do so at a City game - the derby of all matches - I can only imagine how distraught you must have been. My heartfelt condolences, albeit you will have moved on in four years. We can but hope against hope (certainly in my case as a cynical ex-journalist) that there is some greater being and that our Dads are indeed seeing City's new found fortunes, both on and off the pitch. Thanks for your comments and for your #MCFCBlues camaraderie. Let's raise a glass to brilliant Dads, absent friends and future City glories - starting in the immediate future!

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