Roy Hodgson has backed Mark Hughes to get Manchester City challenging for major honours even though his Fulham side virtually wrecked their chances of qualifying for Europe next season.
Six points adrift of seventh-placed West Ham with just six games of the campaign remaining following Sunday's 3-1 defeat at Eastlands, City's only hope of getting into the new Europa League seems to rest on winning the UEFA Cup.
Nevertheless, Hodgson said: "Mark Hughes is doing a fine job. An awful lot has changed at Manchester City in a short period of time."
City face Hamburg needing to pull back a two-goal deficit in Thursday's quarter-final second-leg, but Hodgson is convinced that if the Blues' Abu Dhabi-based owners give Hughes - who left Robinho on the bench on Sunday - the time he needs, the Welshman will repay them.
"Mark will need time to fashion the club in the way he wants, but he had no time to start with," Hodgson added.
"He will get it in the summer and I am sure, good manager he is, he will succeed in putting together a Manchester City team that will be challenging for honours."
Hughes must now come up with a plan to beat Hamburg, who he regards as Germany's number one team.
At least he will have Shaun Wright-Phillips available and, possibly, Wayne Bridge and Vincent Kompany, but not Craig Bellamy who will go for a scan on his knee injury later this week.
Robinho is certain to get his place back as well, with Hughes claiming the City fans who yelled abuse when he introduced Ched Evans for Valeri Bojinov rather than the Â£32.5million Brazilian following Fulham's equaliser, were not looking at the whole picture.
"I am just trying to protect the players who have carried the vast majority of the workload," said Hughes. "Robinho comes into that category. The supporters shout for individual players to be put on but sometimes it is simplistic."
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