FERGIE: HUGHES EXIT COULD HAUNT CITY
Sir Alex Ferguson believes the "unethical" manner of Mark Hughes' sacking by Manchester City could help trigger a Devon Loch-style collapse next week that opens the Barclays Premier League title door for Manchester United.
Although United beat Swansea 2-0 at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, the margin of victory was not enough to suggest they will be able to overhaul City on goal difference on the final weekend.
Instead, they will go to Sunderland hoping relegation-threatened QPR can pull off a massive shock at the Etihad Stadium by becoming only the second team to deny Roberto Mancini's men on home soil this term after City completed a 2-0 win at Newcastle half an hour before they kicked off.
It seems like a forlorn hope. But Ferguson realises QPR have plenty of incentive, first to save their top-flight skins, but also personally for Hughes, who was dumped by City after a game against Sunderland in December 2009, with Mancini already lined up to replace him.
"QPR need a point and they're fighting for survival," said Ferguson.
"The whole future of the club could be resting on the game and I only wish Sparky was playing.
"But Mark knows his job all right. He was sacked by City in a very unethical way and he'll remember that."
And that could contribute to a collapse as dramatic as the one suffered by Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National when he appeared to have the race at his mercy.
"There could be a Devon Loch. You never know," said Ferguson.
"Stranger things have happened in this game of football.
"They're red-hot favourites but we've won the title on three occasions on the last day and we don't mind doing it again."
Speaking on the pitch, addressing supporters after the final whistle, Ferguson told them to get ready for "the biggest celebration of their lives" at Sunderland next week.
Yet earlier, he had conceded "they probably have two hands on the trophy".
"The crowd will be right behind them," he said.
"And they will be into the referee as they were doing against us."
Should City win, it leaves United open to becoming the first team to lose the league on goal difference since they inflicted a similar fate on Leeds in 1965.
"We did what we had to do, we won the match," said Ferguson.
"There was optimism from our fans and ourselves about scoring a lot of goals but it was over-optimism.
"It wasn't too difficult to lift them before the game.
"They all knew their responsibility. They know the expectation of this club that whenever you play, wherever you play and whoever you play we are expected to win."
Ferguson said he expected both Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling to shrug off groin injuries for next weekend's trip to the Stadium of Light.
And, no matter how the title races unfolds, Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers is certain United will be a formidable force next season.
"I have never been in the position City and United are in next week," he said.
"It is so exciting. It is brilliant. You are talking about two great sides.
"The professionalism of Manchester United today was exemplary. They were probably watching the game beforehand and when Manchester City got those two late goals it could have really deflated them.
"Manchester United are serial winners. What makes them great winners is how they respond to not winning trophies.
"So if it is not for them this year, when you look at their history, they always come back the next year and win, so they will be there or thereabouts next season."
Rodgers will be completing the season against Liverpool, having confounded the pundits who almost unanimously tipped the Welsh outfit to go straight back down.
"Next week is going to be brilliant," he said.
"I will be asking all the fans if they can wear as many Elvis Presley costumes as we can because when we got promoted the bookies said there was more chance of seeing Elvis Presley than us staying at this level."
United midfielder Michael Carrick said his side had not given up hope of snatching the title, but admitted they had been deflated after watching City's win before kick-off.
"We were watching game at Newcastle and hoping for something. It didn't quite happen for us," he told Sky Sports 1.
"We had to be professional and to take it on to next week.
"It was about winning the game. Credit to the boys after watching the game before. It can be difficult. We can only hope next week."
Asked if they had any hope, after first-half goals from Paul Scholes and Ashley Young, he added: "Who knows? Football is a funny game. Stranger things have happened in the past.
"We have to concentrate on ourselves. Sunderland will be a tough game.
"We still have a chance of winning the league."
Latest Football News at 09:59 BST