MANCHESTER // With one game to play in the Premier League title race, both Manchester teams – City and United – are level on 86 points with identical records of 27 wins, five draws and five defeats.
Crucially though, Roberto Mancini's City side enjoy an eight-goal superior goal difference meaning they go into next week's home game against relegation-threatened QPR knowing a win would seal a first league title since 1968.
Both teams won 2-0 yesterday, City away at Newcastle United and United at home to Swansea City.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has seen United lose an eight-point lead a month ago to a City side who have won their last five matches – including last week's crucial Manchester derby.
United travel to Sunderland on Sunday, while City, who have won 17 and drawn one of their 18 home games do far, entertain QPR, led by their former manager Mark Hughes, who played for United.
Mancini, who claimed that United were title favourites before yesterday's games, conceded City are in pole position.
"Maybe, maybe yes because it depends on us," said the Italian. "If we beat QPR, we will be the champions. But at this moment, we can't think about this. We need to prepare very well for the next game, only this."
He added: "I am excited because we are on the top, but it's not enough. One week more and if we play like we did today, we have a lot of chance to win."
Ferguson is hopeful that Hughes can give his former club a helping hand.
"QPR need a point and they're fighting for survival," he said. "The whole future of the club could be resting on the game and I only wish Sparky [Hughes] was playing. But Mark knows his job all right. He was sacked by City in a very unethical way and he'll remember that."
And that could contribute to a collapse as dramatic as the one suffered by Devon Loch in the 1956 Grand National when he appeared to have the race at his mercy.
"There could be a Devon Loch. You never know," said Ferguson.
"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."
City's two-goal hero and man of the match Yaya Toure is keeping his feet on the ground.
"It's not finished," said the Ivorian. "We have one game left and we have to be careful as QPR are fighting to stay in the Premier League."
United fans had hoped City would slip up against a Newcastle side chasing a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League and who had won seven of their last eight.
Toure, who netted on 70 and 89 minutes, his first ever double, added: "The manager told me to deliver because it was an important game. Newcastle are a physical and strong team, but we need to keep improving. This is brilliant for us, though."
After the 3,000 travelling City fans celebrated in the same stadium where they last won the title 44 years ago, there was a mood of deflation at Old Trafford. Asked if United can retain the league, the midfielder Michael Carrick said: "Stranger things have happened."
United need an amazing turnaround, City one more victory to be champions.