Manchester:Manchester City fired manager Mark Hughes on Saturday and immediately hired former Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini in an effort to turn an expensively assembled squad into title challengers.
While Hughes had lost just two matches this season after spending around $330 million on new players inside a year, the club's wealthy owner was dissatisfied with a string of draws that left City sixth in the Premier League.
Hughes did manage to mastermind a 4-3 victory over Sunderland on Saturday before the announcement, but his fate had been sealed by a 3-0 loss at Tottenham on Wednesday.
"A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set," chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said in a statement less than two hours after the final whistle. "(Owner) Sheikh Mansour and the board felt that there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change."
After taking charge in June 2008, Hughes soon had the backing of the vast wealth from Abu Dhabi after Sheikh Mansour's takeover in the September.
To produce City's first major title since 1976 and break into the top four of the league, Hughes was given more than 200 million pounds ($328 million; euro226 million), which he spent on top talent including Robinho, Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Roque Santa Cruz and Joleon Lescott.
"Prior to the current season beginning, with significant investment in players and infrastructure in place, the consensus between the board and coaching staff was that appropriate agreed targets should be set," said Al Mubarak, who had previously stated publicly that a top-six finish would have sufficed this season. "The targets were agreed as a result of the player acquisition strategy of the club being radically accelerated in the summer as a result of very favorable conditions for any buying club.
"It was also based on the fact that the infrastructure of the club had been overhauled completely at great cost in order to create the best possible environment for the team."
Now City is following the latest trend in English football of turning to an Italian to revive its fortunes. The 45-year-old Mancini will be looking to emulate Fabio Capello, whose England side breezed through qualification to the 2010 World Cup, and Carlo Ancelotti, who has returned Chelsea to the top of the league.
Mancini, whose only experience in England was a four-game spell as a Leicester player in 2001, had been out of work since leaving Inter in 2008 after steering the Italian club to its third consecutive Serie A title. He will be assisted by Brian Kidd, the former City and Man United player who had been serving under Hughes in a technical development role.
"Roberto is a hugely experienced manager with a proven track record of winning trophies and championships," Al Mubarak said. "His experience and track record speak for themselves.
"What is absolutely clear is that Roberto believes in Manchester City's potential to achieve at the highest level and importantly in his own ability to make this happen."
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger expects Mancini to be given the finances in the January transfer window to succeed.
"He's a manager that has done excellent work in Italy," Wenger said. "He will have Formula One in his hands. How quickly he will drive, I don't know. He will have all the players he wants."
Hughes, who was powerful center forward with Man United, Barcelona and Chelsea, progressed rapidly as a manager.
After playing 72 matches for Wales before his international retirement in 1999, he took Wales close to reaching its first major tournament since 1958.
He left in 2004 to move into club management at Blackburn, transforming it from relegation candidates into a side that twice qualified for the UEFA Cup through top-six finishes.
Hughes was hired by previous owner Thaksin Shinawatra to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson before the Abu Dhabi buyout.
"That's the big problem _ they wanted their own man in," said Kevin Keegan, who managed City between 2001 and '05.