Mark Hughes – Manchester United manager in waiting?

Mark Hughes is regarded as something of a legend at Manchester United, making 473 appearances and scoring 163 goals over the course of two spells in the 80s and 90s – something that will certainly be playing on his mind as his Stoke side face Manchester United in Round 5 of the Capital One Cup.

And as he began his management career as Wales boss in 1999 he was widely tipped to be the man to replace Sir Alex Ferguson as United boss when the great man finally decided to call it a day.

But after spells with Blackburn, Manchester City, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers, Hughes finds himself as manager of Stoke City while he sees David Moyes take the reins at Old Trafford following Fergie’s shock retirement in the summer.

But does Hughes have it in him as a manager to take the job at Old Trafford in the future, perhaps replacing David Moyes?

With all the money he had to spend at Manchester City, it came as a surprise to many that he couldn’t guide them to where they are now. But it was obviously early days for the City revolution and therefore he cannot be held entirely accountable for any that didn’t quite pay off.

A number of his signings, including Joleon Lescott and Gareth Barry (now on loan at Everton) are still at the club four years on, while Carlos Tevez played a fundamental role in City’s Premier League win in 2012. He signed a number of good players, many of which are forgotten when compared to the Galacticos City boast today.

After a solid tenure as manager of Fulham, Hughes took the QPR job with another large pot of money to spend on players.  After avoiding relegation in his first season at Loftus Road, he then found his side struggling by November the following season and left as a result – although even Harry Redknapp is now showing that life in the Loftus Road hotseat is far from simple.

It his time at both City and QPR that suggests he may not be quite ready to take what is one of the most pressurised managerial jobs in the world, but few are. His learnings during both spells and the calibre of players he signed will have been taken into account when United were looking for their new manager.

But Hughes now has a big challenge with Stoke City and the early signs show that he might enjoy a successful reign at the Britannia. As a club criticised in recent years for the physical type of football they played, Hughes is beginning to adopt a more fluid style that has got them picking up results in the league and the Capital One Cup.

So can Hughes manage Manchester United in the future? His CV says he’s not ready just yet, but if he defies the odds and succeeds at Stoke, then you can never say never.

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