Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hopes Manchester City’s “unethical” sacking of Mark Hughes will rebound on them when the Premier League title is decided this coming Sunday.
But, crucially, City have a plus eight goal difference difference advantage over their local rivals.
Ferguson saw his side take the race to finish top to the last round of matches with a predictably comfortable 2-0 victory over mid-table Swansea City at Old Trafford on Sunday.
But City’s win at Newcastle by the same scoreline earlier in the day leaves them in pole position to end their long wait to claim the top flight crown.
To end the campaign on May 13, Manchester United travel to Sunderland, who haven’t beaten them in the league in 19 attempts spanning 15 years.
However, City – unbeaten at home in the league this season – will be overwhelming favourites when a relegation-threatened QPR side that have won just three times on the road this season arrive at Eastlands.
The Premier League title has never been decided on goal difference before but this season there is every chance that it will.
Victory for both Manchester clubs – barring a mathematical miracle courtesy of an unlikely eight-goal swing – will spark huge celebrations in the blue half of town.
Hughes was sacked by City in controversial circumstances two-and-a-half years ago and Ferguson hopes the shoddy manner in which the Welshman was treated will prove to be a factor in United’s favour.
The Scot is hoping for a ‘Devon Loch’ style collapse from City similar to the one the luckless horse suffered when leading in the closing stages of the 1956 Grand National steeplechase at Aintree, and with no more fences to jump, he inexplicably sprawled on the turf and lost the race.
“People will think City have both hands on the trophy, and of course it’s going to be very difficult for us to win the league,” conceded Ferguson, whose side have, astonishingly, surrendered an eight-point lead in the last month.
The Scot added: “But you have to think there’s hope. QPR go to City looking for survival. They’re fighting for their lives and need to get something. City are favourites, but QPR have a chance.
“I just wish Mark Hughes was playing for QPR. He was sacked in a very unethical way by City and I’m sure he will remember that. There could be a Devon Loch, you never know. Stranger things have happened.
“We just have to keep going with the right spirit. Hopefully, next week will be the biggest celebration of our lives.”
United eased past Swansea thanks to first-half goals from Paul Scholes and Ashley Young, though the muted celebrations betrayed the feeling in the camp.
Swansea have won just once in their last eight games to remain 12th, and manager Brendan Rodgers said: “We took the game to them as it wore on but we made life hard for ourselves with the two goals we conceded.”
However, a mid-table Premier League finish for a Swansea side only promoted last season is a huge achievement for the Welsh club and Rodgers has made an unusual request to their supporters ahead of Sunday’s finale against Liverpool at Anfield.
“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,” he explained.