Hughes was told he was no longer required despite winning at the weekend and it soon emerged that City had already lined up Roberto Mancini as his replacement, with the Italian being presented to the media on Monday evening.
City chief executive Garry Cook has denied reports of a player revolt following suggestions that Craig Bellamy and Shay Given were deeply unhappy with the departure of Hughes, but Santa Cruz, who scored the winning goal against Sunderland, admits there was an element of discontent at first.
"Naturally, there was some anger," Santa Cruz told the Daily Mirror. "We had won the game and things still happened. Garry Cook came down and told us after the game. He told us what decision the Sheikh had made and that it was for the good of the club because they were aiming to build something not only for this season, but for the coming ones as well.
"We are employees of the club and if you've got something to say, then you say it. But you work for the club and you want to do the best for the club. If they think it is the best choice, we know as a fact that they want the best for club as well, so you just have to put our best into every session and try to help the new gaffer to find the results that are expected and move forward.
"Of course it's sad. It is never going to be an easy thing to see your gaffer going because it is somebody losing their job and, even if you don't have a good relationship with your manager, you cannot be happy to see him leaving the club having lost his job.
"Our results have not been incredibly good, but not incredibly bad either. But things have happened because you have people here who want to achieve the top four. Football is sometimes like that and you need to carry on. We want to see the club in the top four so there is a lot of work to do. Everybody needs to keep looking forward."
Santa Cruz also revealed that Mancini has immediately made a priority of tightening up a defence that has conceded three goals in each of the past three games.
"In the first day he was shaping the team a little and giving us ideas of what he expected from us," Santa Cruz said. "He knows exactly what he has to do. There is a lot of work to do tactically and I think he will do it.
"We were working very well on reshaping the team, which is one of the things we need to do to get the right balance defensively. We have a lot of defensive work to do and then we will have time to address other things which have been causing problems to the team and solve them in the best way possible."