Stephen Ireland can expect a lot more close attention thanks to his outstanding season with City.
That's the opinion of Mark Hughes, who has seen the Irish midfielder fulfil his undoubted talent during 2008/09. Sunday's Old Trafford derby saw Darren Fletcher pay close attention to Ireland, who despite his best efforts had one of his quieter games, and it is this sort of respect from opposing teams that the City boss thinks Ireland will have to cope with from now on.
"He's had an outstanding season", Mark declares, "and I have congratulated him at every opportunity I get because it is fully deserved.
"At the weekend, I think it was very much a mark of respect that Stephen received the attention that he did. The impact he can have has been recognised by opposition teams, they know that they have to try to lessen the impact that he has. If he is allowed to play then he can hurt teams, and every team is going to recognise that in the future.
"Sunday was a good test for Stephen, he will get more of that and it is still a learning process for him. Away from home teams will be aware of him and will try to stop him".
The 22-year-old had been linked with a move away from City last summer, but the Manager is delighted that Ireland's superb form has established him in terms of acclaim from the fans and respect from opponents.
He continues, "There was interest because he was already an outstanding player, but he had not had the sort of season like he has had this year. There was never any doubt that he would be a player that would help us this year, but in fairness I have to say that he has surpassed my expectations. That is of huge credit to him, but he was never going to be allowed to leave as he was one I felt would have an impact, and that is how it has proved".