Sir Alex Ferguson turns to Mark Hughes in last throw of title dice

United old boy paying back 'unethical sacking' is red half of Manchester's final hope of salvation after City beat Newcastle 2-0 to close on the Premier League crown

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson has made a last-ditch attempt at the sort of mind games he has become famed for in an attempt to stop Manchester City securing the Premier League title next weekend.

Ferguson watched City's crucial 2-0 victory at Newcastle yesterday, before his own side beat Swansea by the same score at Old Trafford. The results leave Roberto Mancini's team as clear favourites to take the title for the first time in 44 years, as the United manager had conceded beforehand a City win would do. The two teams are level on points but City hold a superior goal difference of eight.

Yesterday, Ferguson picked away at the wound inflicted on Mark Hughes when he was controversially sacked as City manager at the end of 2009. Hughes takes Queen's Park Rangers to the Etihad on Sunday, knowing they need a point to guarantee survival after their 1-0 win against Stoke yesterday.

"Mark knows his job all right," said Ferguson. "He was sacked by City in a very unethical way and he'll remember that. Mark Hughes' teams always fight but QPR players are fighting for survival.

"You have to think there is hope. The way I look at it is this; QPR have to go there and to survive they need a point. I just wish Sparky [Hughes] was still playing. Nonetheless, they are fighting for their lives, and a team fighting for their lives must have some sort of chance. No doubt City will be favourites, the crowd will be carried away and right behind them and they will be getting in the face of the referee, as they did against us.

"We've won the title on three occasions on the last day and we don't mind doing it again but they're red-hot favourites. Hopefully next week will be the biggest celebrations of our lives."

Before his side's win over Swansea, and in the immediate aftermath of City's victory, Ferguson had been asked if Mancini's side had one hand on the trophy. "Probably two," came his reply.

Mancini finally admitted that City were now favourites to win their first title since 1968. "Maybe we are favourites now," said Mancini. "If we beat QPR we will be champions, but we can't think about that now, we have another game and we have to prepare very well. It doesn't depend on Man United any more, it depends on us. But we have another game. It won't be easy because QPR are fighting against relegation.

"If we play like we did today, I think we have a fantastic chance to be champions. It is important for everyone, the owners, the supporters, for us, the players because we have worked hard. It is important for everyone.

"I always believed we would get another chance because when you are there [on top of the table] for 28 games and you have dominated the championship, I think it would be too strange for us not to get another chance [to get into a position] where we could win it."