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Fergie sets standard for under-fire Hughes

MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, November 23 – The contrast between the two dug-outs when Manchester United entertain QPR at Old Trafford on Saturday could hardly be greater.

Twenty-four hours after United mark the remarkable longevity of Alex Ferguson by unveiling a statue of their manager, QPR’s beleaguered boss Mark Hughes will return to his former club with his own employment prospects in the balance.

Ferguson has been in charge at United for 26 years and, with his 71st birthday approaching, the Scot shows no signing of calling time on an era that has delivered 12 Premier League titles.

Hughes, meanwhile, is battling just to reach his first anniversary at Loftus Road after a dismal start to the season which has left QPR bottom of the table and without a win in their 12 league matches.

Ferguson’s appetite for success remains undiminished and, with leaders Manchester City not in action until their trip to Chelsea on Sunday, United will return to the top of the table with a victory.

Having suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat at Norwich last Saturday, a young United side lost in the Champions League for the first time this season when they went down 1-0 against Galatasaray in midweek.

But those kind of slips only reinforce Ferguson’s desire for more glory according to United captain Nemanja Vidic.

“He’s a great example for all managers and it’s great to work with him,” Vidic said.

“You learn something new from him every day – I have learnt a lot from him, not just as a footballer but in life in general.

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“He gives all the players great confidence and belief and he does all he can to get the best out of his players. I think this is his biggest strength.

“He has faith in us and he trusts us and I’m really glad I have been able to spend nearly seven years working with him. He is a winner.”

Words of praise for Hughes have been thin on the ground during a testing few days following his side’s 3-1 home defeat to fellow strugglers Southampton last weekend.

Former United striker Hughes met with members of the club board earlier this week, triggering speculation he had been dismissed.

He remains in charge but Tony Fernandes, QPR’s chairman, will expect to see a much improved performance when he returns to England in time to attend the Old Trafford game.

Fernandes has repeatedly offered public support to Hughes, but his reaction on Twitter to the Southampton defeat was seen as a sign his patience is now wearing thin.

“I feel gutted. I have put my heart and soul into this with my other shareholders. And done all we can to give support to players and all management. I can only apologise to the QPR fans. We keep fighting,” he wrote.

Hughes has promised changes to his team for the United trip and Ryan Nelsen, QPR’s New Zealand centre back, believes it is now up to the players to demonstrate the mental strength required to turn their season around.

“When the pressure is on, the players have to take responsibility,” said Nelsen.

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“It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, the Premier League is just unforgiving. You’ve got to earn your right to play and win.

“You’ve got to be strong mentally and have the confidence to do something in the game at both ends of the park.

“The players have to take complete responsibility for last weekend. When it mattered most, we just didn’t stand up.”

United will be without Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa, who is still recovering from a knee injury, but both the ill Wayne Rooney and goalkeeper David De Gea, who has had wisdom teeth removed, could return.

QPR captain Park Ji-Sung has only an outside chance of recovering from a knee injury in time to face his former club, while Fabio Da Silva, on loan from United, is ineligible.

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