Time for talking almost over as finale looms

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his Manchester City counterpart Roberto Mancini will rally their troops one last time this weekend when the nine-month battle for the Premier League title will end in victory for one club or the other.

The final scenes in what is widely regarded as the best season since the Premier League replaced the old Football League's First Division 20 years ago as the top flight, will be played out at the Etihad Stadium where City take on Queens Park Rangers and at the Stadium of Light were Sunderland host United.

The mathematics are simple enough. Both have 86 points but City's goal difference is eight better than United's.

If City win they will be champions for the first time since 1968. All that could stop them is if United win by at least nine goals, or possibly more at Sunderland.

If City lose or draw and United win, then United will retain the title they won last year and be crowned champions for the 20th time.

With the time for the final action almost upon them, Ferguson and Mancini faced the press for their last pre-match conferences of the season on Friday.

CLEVER MANAGER

With City in pole position to claim the title, Ferguson compared the situation to the one he faced when Jose Mourinho arrived at Chelsea in 2004.

"We had to contend with Jose's management style, which was very effective," Ferguson told reporters. "He did a fantastic job there.

"You knew you were competing against a very clever manager. You weren't just facing the money, you were facing a very united squad.

"They were hard to beat. City - quality-wise - are very similar to Chelsea at that time.

"Some of their players have had outstanding seasons. When you win the league you need five or six players who are consistently good all the time.

"City have had that this year and the manager, for most of the part, has done well."

Mancini has had to deal with numerous difficulties this season including Carlos Tevez's lengthy absence from the club and Mario Balotelli's erratic behaviour.

Mancini said Sunday's game was not a personal battle between him and his opposite number Mark Hughes, once a United player and the man sacked as City manager to make way for Mancini in December 2009.

QPR need a point to avoid relegation, a point that could also deny City the title and give Hughes some revenge for his sacking.

"For me, they [QPR] are a good team, they don't deserve to stay at the bottom," said Mancini.

"They want to do everything to stay in the Premier League and for this reason I think it will be a tough game.

"I don't know him very well but it is not Mancini against Hughes or Hughes against Mancini. It is City against QPR.

"One team plays for the title, the other plays against relegation."


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