Manchester United Club Focus – United look to old boy Hughes in last chance saloon

Going into the final Premier League fixture of the season, Manchester United require Queens Park Rangers to get a result against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

Former United player, Mark Hughes, will lead the underdogs into a game that will also decide their own future in the top flight. Hughes has not enjoyed a particularly cosy relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson over the years, once branding him “the knight of the realm” when in charge at City. However, Hughes has an axe to grind with his former employers. The Welshman was sacked following a home victory against Sunderland in December 2009, with the decision being taken prior to the game.

Hughes applauded fans on the pitch at full-time, despite the press having already reported that he would be dismissed. Ferguson branded the circumstances “very unethical,” as Roberto Mancini was in place to take over as manager. His appointment was announced just 90 minutes after the game in question.

There is motivation for Hughes to put a serious dent in City’s title chase, having said that the league leaders “made the change with the view that they wanted to accelerate the process of getting success. That doesn’t seem to have happened.” If he were to deny City their first league title since 1968, his words would bear more significance.

The last time Hughes took a team to the Etihad he was in charge of Fulham, and went home with a point following a 1-1 draw. A repeat of this would open the door for Alex Ferguson to claim his 13th league title.

However, Hughes has much more pressing and professional motives in hand than doing his former boss a favour. Thanks to a much superior goal difference, a point for QPR would ensure their Premier League survival, regardless of Bolton’s result at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke. There should be no greater motivation for the manager and his group of players than the opportunity to guarantee their own fate.

There have also been rumours that Hughes will be sacked should he take his side back down to the Championship. On the flip side, the investment that January saw ought to be continued in the summer should Rangers stay up. This would provide an opportunity for Hughes to move himself back up the table following a controversial departure from Fulham in June of last year.

Ferguson said that he wished “Sparky was playing” on Sunday. This flattery was not required for his former charge to focus on a result that would be priceless to both himself and United.

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