Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has an uncompromising reputation - he neither asks for nor gives a quarter... to anyone, no matter how big the star player or how important the official involved. It is a trait that has rubbed off on all of his players and contributed greatly, if not entirely, to that aura of invincibility that has characterised United's style of play and philosophy in the Scot's tenure. So, when so fierce a competitor as Ferguson asks for help, you know the situation is well and truly a desperate one.
According to a report by The Sun, the United boss has sneakily suggested QPR boss (and former Manchester United player) Mark Hughes could do the Red Devils an enormous favour and beat their local and title rivals Manchester City, when the two teams contest the final game of the domestic season.
"Mark knows his job. He was sacked by City in a very unethical way and he will remember that. Mark Hughes' teams always fight but QPR players are fighting for survival. The whole future of the club could be resting on the game and I only wish Sparky was playing," Ferguson was quoted as saying, also referring to Hughes' dismissal from Manchester City in 2009, which several people saw as being unjustified.
Hughes responded positively to the challenge his side faces, if not to Ferguson's calls for support. QPR are still battling relegation and need a win in this, their last game, to ensure Premier League survival.
"It would be just fantastic to go there and get something. They are going for the title and we're trying to stay in the league. When I took over at QPR, I looked at the fixtures and that one lurked ominously in the distant future. It does feel a little bit fated for them and for us," Hughes said, in another report by The Sun, warning his former employers of fate.
Ferguson, in addition to asking for help from Hughes, also spoke to the sporting gods to deliver a "Devon Loch"-like incident, which happened at the 1956 Grand National and saw Devon Loch (at the time owned by Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) inexplicably jump into the air and land on his stomach, when leading by five lengths and only 40 yards from the finishing post.
"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," Ferguson said, in a Daily Mail report.
The race to the 2011/12 Premier League crown has gone down to the final day, with City leading United on goal difference (eight goals, to be precise). The final match day of the campaign, 13 May, will see City host QPR and United travel to Sunderland and both games will kick off at 2 pm GMT.
The equation is simple. City must, at a minimum, match United's result. The Red Devils, though, will need to better their local rival's result. If the two teams finish level on points, Manchester United must hope they have beaten Sunderland by a comprehensive enough margin to win the title.