ALEX Ferguson has rejected Roberto Mancini's insistence that Manchester United remain favourites for the Premier League title.
Despite Manchester City's victory over United on Monday, which took them back to the top of the table on goal difference with just two matches remaining, Mancini continues to regard his team as underdogs.
His theory is that United have an easier run-in, which in some senses is correct given City must travel to face in-form Newcastle on Sunday.
However, Ferguson does not believe that is any basis for thinking City are going to blow their chance to secure a first championship since 1968.
"What do you think?" said Ferguson when Mancini's theory was put to him during Thursday's press conference.
"They have got two games left. If they win their two games they win the league.
"People talk about goal difference, but it depends how many they win by. Say they win 3-0 on Sunday, their lead would be 11 and they still have QPR at home.
"That would be impossible."
Having seen an eight-point advantage slip through his side's fingers in the space of four games, Ferguson can only hope Alan Pardew's Champions League chasers do United a massive favour in a game that ends only half an hour before the Red Devils take on Swansea at Old Trafford.
"The challenge for City is to win at Newcastle," said Ferguson.
"Newcastle is a very difficult place and they are playing well. After that incredible defeat at Wigan, they galvanised themselves to win at Chelsea and, as everyone knows, winning at Chelsea is very difficult. We have not done it for eight years."
Danny Welbeck and Jonny Evans have both been ruled out of Swansea's first visit to Old Trafford since 1983.
The Welsh outfit have never beaten United away from home but Ferguson has seen enough of Brendan Rodgers' side this season to know it will not be easy, as Mancini has claimed about United's entire run-in.
"We don't have easy games," said Ferguson.
"If you go to Sunderland on the last day of the season, with the support they have and the manager they have got, you don't expect an easy game, and the way Swansea have played this season has been admirable.
"Their manager has stuck by his principles and they have had a fantastic season.
"When you talk about how you pick manager of the year, there always has to be a consideration about the resources.
"Brendan Rodgers came out of the Championship and only brought two players in, Danny Graham from Watford and Gylfi Sigurdsson from Germany, and even that was not for a big financial outlay.
"He stuck by the players who got them into the Premier League and they have rewarded him."