Assuming Roberto Mancini remains manager of the club for the 2010-11 season (and there's no reason he shouldn't be), we have a somewhat solid foundation to build a title-contending football team.
He has already proven to be much more astute in the transfer market than his predecessor. In the January window, he picked up the impressive Adam Johnson and the improving Patrick Vieira for a combined total of £7million.
One advantage of not qualifying for the Champs League as it finally puts this notion of building a "Galacticos mark II" to bed. This off-season would have been about more ridiculous pursuits like John Terry, Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres, and of course that old favourite rumour, David Villa. Mancini instead can buy talented young players, rather than superstars. The pursuit of names such Jerome Boateng and McDonald Mariga is a key example of this practise.
And you can guarantee that he won't spunk massive amounts of money on players that were often injury prone, but worse than that, we these were players that weren't being sought after by other clubs! The transfers of Roque Santa Cruz for £18m and Joleon Lescott for £22m are the two that stand out as verging on the obscene. Despite spending all this money, we were left with a terribly unbalanced team, with no creativity or play-maker in the middle of the pitch. Out of all of the mistakes Hughes made, this was probably the daftest.
Still, Sparky was adamant that the target set for him and the club was top six and/or 70 points. The infamous "Trajectory". As it turns out, with one match to go this season, we have fulfilled the first part of the criteria, and will fall just short of the second. On that basis alone, the season should be considered a failure, right?
However, there are some mitigating circumstances that explain why we just fell short of the said target:
- The media on our back whenever we had a shit result
- The media on our back when we fired the manager responsible for those shit results
- The terrible form of last season's Player of the Year
- The terrible form of last season's top goal scorer
- The aforementioned top goal scorer going on holiday in January to play football with his mates in Brazil
- Our best striker picking up an injury on International duty
- Our best striker missing key games over the January period due to a family emergency
- Our second best striker missing seven games through suspension — four of which were from a Stoke player's dive
- Our second best striker... getting shot at!
- Missing key defenders Lescott, Bridge, and Toure — often all at the one time
- The injury to our goal keeper, forcing us to loan Sunderland's third choice stopper (who did quite well in fairness)
- The inability to recall the Premier League's best keeper from loan to cover for said injury
- The six-and-a-half minutes of Fergie Time at Vermin Towers
- Conceding injury time goals on three separate occasions to the Rags