Manchester:New Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini set his sights on a top-four finish for the perennial Premier League underachievers, saying Monday his immediate goal is to qualify the club for the Champions League for the first time.
Addressing the media 48 hours after Mark Hughes was fired for not being on the right "trajectory," Mancini insisted that City owner Sheikh Mansour had not set him a definite target for the season.
"My target is to arrive in the top four _ but it's my objective, my target," the Italian manager said in broken England. "I think it's possible. Next year we want to win the Premier League."
Hughes left with City sitting sixth in the Premier League after spending more $330 million on new players, just six points behind fourth place with a game in hand.
And the circumstances surrounding Hughes' departure after the 4-3 win over Sunderland overshadowed Mancini's unveiling, as City chief executive Garry Cook initially refused to answer reporters' questions, before thumping his hand and insisting: "There is no conspiracy."
Cook had said that the "decision to look at managerial options was taken only three weeks ago" after a 1-1 draw against lowly Hull, while maintaining that Mancini hadn't been offered the job until after a 3-0 loss against fifth-place Tottenham on Wednesday.
But after Mancini revealed that he had met City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak two weeks ago, Cook backtracked and said that "managerial position was discussed in general terms" over that dinner.
Mancini remained calm throughout the intense questioning of Cook, a former Nike executive, saying that he was used to such hostility in Italy.
Mancini won three straight league titles at Inter Milan before being fired after the 2007-08 season. He has been out of work since, rejecting four jobs until an offer eventually came from England.
"City is a big club," Mancini said. "I want to stay here for many, many years and I want to contribute to winning many trophies because City has great supporters and I hope we do a good job for them.
"My job is to work hard every day to improve the play, to improve the victories. This is all. I think I can do a good job because we have good players."
Time won't necessarily be on Mancini's side at a club which last won a trophy 33 years ago and lives in the shadow of powerful neighbor Manchester United.
While Alex Ferguson has lifted 25 major trophies in 23 years at United, City has had 14 different permanent managers during that time _ including Mancini.
"Manchester is similar to Milan in its football passion," Mancini said. "In Milan there are two big teams there fighting for supremacy and silverware and here it is the same. I like the challenge of that."
As a former Italy striker, the 45-year-old Mancini said he would adopt an attacking philosophy and his options are plentiful with Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Craig Bellamy in the squad.
Mancini is yet to decide which areas need strengthening in the January transfer window. Cash shouldn't be a problem for City's wealthy owner. Finding the players might be for Mancini.
The frailties are primarily in central defense. Joleon Lescott, whom Hughes relentlessly pursued from Everton, is out for two months because of knee surgery, while Ivory Coast international Kolo Toure will miss most of next month due to the African Cup of Nations.
While Robinho started Sheikh Mansour's spending spree _ beating Chelsea to his signature as clear a statement of intent _ the Brazil forward has failed to live up to his price tag _ he was signed from Madrid last year for a British record transfer fee of 32.5 million pounds (then $51 million).
After spending most of this season out injured, he has made little impact on his return. However, Barcelona said Monday that City had rejected an offer for the Brazilian ahead of the January transfer window.
"Robinho is a fantastic player," Mancini said in response to questions about the former Real Madrid player's willingness to play for the club.
Mancini's English is limited, and he will be assisted at the club by Brian Kidd, the former City and United player who served under Hughes in a technical development role.