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Real escape with hope of progress

What the papers say
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By ESPN Staff

Hughes feels Mancini must lead title charge

Mark Hughes has piled the pressure on Roberto Mancini by claiming the Manchester City boss has no excuse for failing to challenge for the Premier League this season.

Hughes, sacked by City in December and replaced by Mancini, also declared he would have secured Champions League football last term - something his successor failed to do - and insisted nobody could have done as good a job as he did during his 18 months in charge.

Asked if he would have finished in the top four, Hughes said: "Yes, I think I would. I agreed to the targets at the beginning of the season, which were to get sixth position. I thought fifth and fourth were very, very achievable."

City have splashed out more than £70million this summer and Hughes added: "Given the amount of investment that they've already spent and put into their playing staff then really they should be looking at... certainly top four has to be nailed on for them, and, really, they should be looking to push to win the Premier League."

Hughes lost his job just before Christmas following a run of two wins in 11 games, although the club were still well placed to break into the Premier League top four.

He said: "I was disappointed because I felt I was doing a good job, given the circumstances that I found at the club and all the changes that we had to accommodate in my tenure there.

"I think no-one else could have done as good a job as I did, given the circumstances. I felt we were fully on track with the expectations of the owners. Unfortunately, maybe their mindset changed, and I wasn't part of their plans."

Hughes confirmed what many suspect about the inner-workings at Eastlands when it comes to transfers.

He said: "On some occasions at City, in fairness, players were presented to me which I didn't really have a direct input in, but you get a phonecall and somebody says, 'Would you like Robinho?' As a manager, you say, 'Well, yeah - I would'.

"But whether or not the situation like that was correct in terms of timing and the development of the club at that stage - that's open to debate."

Hughes' sacking was a messy affair in which news of him losing his job appeared to be leaked prior to what proved to be his final game in charge, December's 4-3 win over Sunderland.

Asked if he would be prepared to shake City chief executive Garry Cook's or owner Sheikh Mansour's hand when his new club meets his old this season, he said: "It wasn't about personality, from my point of view.

"I had an opportunity and I felt I was fulfilling the role that I was asked. In the end, that opportunity was taken away from me and there was frustration because of that, but I don't think the emotion of being bitter or frustrated by that was a good emotion.

"I wouldn't be myself if I allowed that emotion to be within me. I've moved on, City have moved on, and I'm looking forward to a great season at Fulham Football Club."

He added: "Sometimes relationships break down and that can have an effect on your position at the football club.

"I've come here, I feel very comfortable with the people I'm working with. Maybe one of the key elements to it is that I'm actually their man. Maybe that was one of the big things that went against me at City.

"I have no embarrassment whatsoever in terms of the job that I did at Man City. If you ask people there - people who are still there - they would agree with that situation.

"I would back my performance in terms of what I achieved there against anybody's ability to get the same amount out of those players."

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