Big-spending City target top four

Manchester City have been making all the headlines in England this summer, spending over a third of the total money spent by all the other Premier League sides put together. The most recent of those big-name signings is the Ivorian centre-back Kolo Toure, a £16 million capture, taking City's summer spree over the £100 million mark. Their Arab owners will be hoping manager Mark Hughes can follow Chelsea's example of spending big with immediate success.

There are those who believe that can be achieved. According to Aston Villa manager Martin O'Neill, Manchester City "are now favourites to win the title this season", while arguably their most famous supporter, pop star Noel Gallagher, believes his beloved City are now "the most exciting team in the world along with Real Madrid." At face value, those two viewpoints may appear a little overstated, but with such talented acquisitions as Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz, their attacking options look as prolific as any other the league has to offer, especially when you consider their existing collateral in Robinho, Stephen Ireland, Craig Bellamy and Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Life is a rollercoaster
For many fans in the blue half of Manchester and indeed worldwide, their recent existence has been something of a rollercoaster ride. It is hard to believe that a little over ten years ago they were plying their trade in the third tier of English football, battling it out with such teams as Crewe and Stockport County. They have come a long way since those days and are now set to embark on the most exciting period in the club's history. Those associated with the club believe that their now they are destined for major silverware, something that has eluded them since the 1970s.

It is not easy to get into that top four, so the biggest success of all is to just get the players there. They might not get beyond that.
Sir Alex Ferguson on Manchester City.

However, there is one man who remains unconvinced by City's riches, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who has stated that "City remain a small club with a small mentality.

"Do you know what City's biggest triumph is?," he opined at a recent press conference. "It's getting those players there. I don't know if they will do anything with them. It is not easy to get into that top four, so the biggest success of all is to just get the players there. They might not get beyond that. I don't look upon City as my biggest challenge. For all the buying they have done, they still have to pick a team with balance. That won't be easy for Mark. What's he got, ten strikers? So if he picks a squad to go to Chelsea he has to leave seven behind, or five at least. And you don't expect Liverpool or Chelsea to roll over."

Choices and challenges
It is true that Hughes has a difficult task of deciding his best starting 11 and ensuring that all his big name players are kept happy. With five top class strikers, which front men will start on the opening day against Blackburn Rovers? Will Roque Santa Cruz or Craig Bellamy haunt their old side or will Emmanuel Adebayor repeat his feat of firing a hat-trick against the same opposition as he did for Arsenal last season? These are all the questions Hughes will face; questions that would be a welcome headache to any manager across the world.

This is a long-term plan and everyone knows it will take time for the team to gel.
Manchester City manager Mark Hughes.

The Welshman is sure to face the wrath of the supporters and owners alike if he fails to deliver instant success, but he is unfazed by the extra pressure placed upon him. "This is a long-term plan and everyone knows it will take time for the team to gel but we're confident of a successful campaign and I have the full backing of the owners and the chairman," he said.

With such a wealth of backing at Manchester City it promises to be an exciting campaign for players and supporters alike. It will be extremely interesting to see if Hughes can mould his star-studded squad into a successful unit and, if he does, his old mentor Ferguson, may just have to revise his summer statements.