Hughes’ sack infuriates Ferguson

“It doesn’t matter whether you have lost 20 games or two, there is a way to treat people. For some reason, Christmas seems to bring out the worst in directors. I do not know how you can do something like that.”

Ferguson was one of the first to phone Hughes, having also spoken with another former player, Steve Bruce, who had instantly defended his old team-mate that evening. Ferguson said: “To be sitting throughout the game knowing there was something going on was terrible.

“I spoke to Mark the next day and I could tell he was suffering. Steve Bruce felt that as well. On Saturday the rumour mill was working overtime and Mark obviously realised it was his last game. It was a terrible position to be in.”

Having been part of the double-winning 1994 side that Ferguson regards as the most mentally strong of his time at United, the Scot was not surprised that Bruce was so quick to leap in on Hughes’ behalf. To Ferguson’s mind, it showed a loyalty that City so sadly lacked.

“In the game of football, you have disputes with managers from time to time,” he reflected. “But what Steve did was defend an old team-mate. That great team of 1994 stood by each other. Their loyalty to each other was fantastic. That team would fight the devil together.

“It was as if Steve was saying: ‘That is my team-mate you are talking about’. I was really proud of him. I thought he did fantastic. And Mark really appreciated it. He sees that kind of loyalty, which he didn’t get from City from one of his old team-mates.”

Instead of looking ahead to a Boxing Day encounter with Stoke, Hughes has the consolation of spending Christmas at home with his family. Having spent so much time in Abu Dhabi recently, it may come as a welcome relief.

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