Ferguson hoping City stumble on EPL title day
MANCHESTER, England (AP) -Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson is hoping "something stupid'' happens to crosstown rival Manchester City on the last day of the race for the English Premier League title.
City and United are level on points going into the final round on Sunday, though City's superior goal difference means a home win against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers will almost certainly clinch the title for the first time in 44 years.
"We can only do our best and try to win the game, and hope something stupid happens to Manchester City,'' Ferguson said ahead of his team's trip to mid-table Sunderland.
City manager Roberto Mancini said the chance to win the title against QPR made the match harder than playing United.
City beat United in the Manchester derby 11 days ago to draw level on points and maintained top spot with a hard-fought win at Champions League-chasing Newcastle last weekend to close on a first title since 1968.
"We shall play against a team that plays against relegation,'' Mancini said. "It will be hard, it will be difficult - more than Newcastle, more than United.''
City has secured 17 wins out of 18 home league matches, while QPR has lost 13 matches on the road this season.
After holding an eight-point lead at the beginning of April, United must hope for an unlikely slip-up to snatch a 20th league title.
Ferguson praised Mancini for bringing his team so close to the championship despite having to deal with numerous off-field issues, including Carlos Tevez's lengthy absence from the club and Mario Balotelli's erratic behaviour.
"It is obvious all the things he has had to deal with,'' said Ferguson. "If he didn't have the closeness to win the league, it might have fallen apart.''
Mancini struck a guarded attitude as he spoke at City's Carrington training ground on Friday and insisted there was still work to do to secure the title.
"We need to play another difficult game. They (QPR) are a good team that doesn't deserve to stay at the bottom. I think Sunday will be a tough game.''
The match at Etihad Stadium has an interesting subplot. QPR manager Mark Hughes is a cherished former United striker who was sacked as City manager to make way for Mancini's arrival.
Ferguson has joked that he wished Hughes could play for QPR, but Mancini insisted personalities would not come into the equation.
"It's not Mancini against Hughes or Hughes against Mancini, it's Manchester City against QPR,'' the City manager said. "One team plays for the title, one team plays for relegation.''
Despite publicly conceding the title to United after falling eight points behind with defeat at Arsenal at the beginning of April, Mancini said the team always believed it had a chance.
"You need to play 38 games,'' he said. "We were on top for 28, afterward we had some problems with some important players injured. We don't have the experience that United have, but we believe always.''
United will travel to Sunderland without defender Chris Smalling, whose groin injury will also rule him out of England's Euro 2012 squad.
"It's not going to be easy for us up there and we know that,'' Ferguson said. "We're going there with a chance of winning the league and you know it'll never be easy. These last-day games where you have a chance of winning the league, three times we've won it and once we lost it at West Ham. They're not easy.''
He said the impact on City of losing the title after investing so much money and going so close could have severe repercussions.
"I think the disappointment of City losing the game would be unbelievable and untold at this moment in time (as regards) what effect it could have on them,'' he said. "We do tend to get there in the end but it looks like we're going to miss out this season.
"We're not looking as though it's the end of an era for us. In many ways, it's the start of one for us.''
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