Tuesday, February 7

Mancini sets sights on Premier League title


MANCHESTER: Roberto Mancini crowned an eventful first news conference as Manchester City manager by saying he wanted to bring the English Premier League title to Eastlands next season.It is more than 40 years since City were last crowned champions of England.

HEAVY BURDEN: Mancini appears at a press conference at The City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester. — AFP photo

HEAVY BURDEN: Mancini appears at a press conference at The City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester. — AFP photo

And given the manner in which his predecessor Mark Hughes was sacked last week, there are some who believe former Inter Milan boss Mancini may do well to still be at City come the start of the 2010/11 campaign.

Nevertheless, Mancini told reporters here on Monday: “My target this season is to arrive in the top four. I think it’s possible. Next season we want to win the Premier League.”

Mancini, who won three straight Serie A titles with Inter before being sacked a year-and-a-half ago because of the club’s lack of Champions League success, added: “I stayed at Inter for four years – which is a record in itself. I also won seven trophies when they had not won anything for 20 years.

“Then I got sacked. Pressure in this job is normal.”

But the fact former striker Mancini, who briefly appeared in England for Leicester towards the end of his playing days, is City’s 17th manager (including caretakers) in 20 years may put a dampener on any title talk.

Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Mansour, who has already spent some 200 million pounds in bringing new players to Eastlands, is the latest in a long line of colourful if demanding City owners.

No side has lost fewer games in the Premier League so far this season than City, who’ve been beaten just twice and lie sixth in the table, 11 points behind leaders Chelsea.

Hughes, who on Sunday said he had no idea he was about to be sacked, believed he was on course to achieve the “realistic target” of sixth place or in the region of 70 points set by the owners at the start of the season.

But chief executive Garry Cook said the club’s wealthy backers felt that target would not be achieved unless there was a change of manager.

“The trajectory of recent results was below this requirement and the board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change,” Cook, sitting alongside Mancini, explained.

It said something that this comment – and television phone-ins suggested fans were split on whether the club were right to sack Hughes – was arguably the least contentious one made by Cook on Monday.

Cook originally planned to read out nothing more than a prepared statement which outlined that no discussions with Mancini had taken place until after last Wednesday’s 3-0 league loss to Tottenham Hotspur.

However, Mancini then contradicted Cook by revealing he had met with chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak and Sheikh Mansour in London a fortnight ago.

“Two weeks ago I met Khaldoon in London,” Mancini said. “Only to speak in general on football – it is possible (to only meet to talk about sport).”

This appeared too much even for Cook who, in an unscripted intervention, added: “Two weeks ago Roberto met Khaldoon Al-Mubarak in London and after the Spurs game he was contacted for further discussions of a more serious nature.

“The discussions in London were general, they were about football and they were about considering managerial options at that point.”

Earlier Cook, reading from the statement, said: “I think it is important for people to know that Roberto was only offered the job after the Spurs game, we negotiated on Thursday and finalised his agreement on Friday.”

He added it was Sheikh Mansour’s decision to fly-in to tell Hughes in person he’d been sacked that was behind the bizarre scenario that saw Mancini signed on Friday only for the Welshman to still be in charge for Saturday’s match.

Cook then became rattled when asked why City had not spared either Hughes or the club itself the embarrassment of their former boss’s protracted departure.

“It seems to me there is an overwhelming theory there is a conspiracy,” he said. “There are no conspiracy theories, we need to draw a line and move onto the future.” — AFP