Mark Hughes' City axe leaves Sir Alex Ferguson fuming
Ferguson and Hughes went head-to-head in the Manchester derby in September
Sir Alex Ferguson has branded Manchester City's conduct in Mark Hughes's dismissal as "unacceptable".
The Welshman was sacked moments after Saturday's 4-3 victory over Sunderland, with Italian Roberto Mancini immediately named as his replacement.
And the Manchester United boss criticised City chief executive Garry Cook's handling of the affair.
"It was unacceptable behaviour. For some reason Christmas seems to bring out the worst in directors," he said.
Ferguson signed ex-striker Hughes for a then club record fee of £1.8m from Barcelona in 1988, going on to make 256 appearances in a seven-year spell at Old Trafford.
Following a successful playing career, Hughes moved into management with Wales and Blackburn before moving to Manchester City to replace Sven-Goran Eriksson in June 2008.
However, ambitious owner Sheikh Mansour was not satisfied with sixth place in the Premier League, despite only losing twice in the league this season.
I spoke to Mark the next day and I could tell he was suffering
Sir Alex Ferguson
"It doesn't matter whether you have lost 20 games or two, there is a way to treat people," added Ferguson.
"I do not know how you can do something like that.
"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.
"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."
Cook's conduct in Hughes's departure has been roundly criticised by large sections of the media, but he dismissed reports as "conspiracy theories", banning copies of newspapers at City's training ground.
Hughes, 46, revealed he was given no prior warning of his dismissal, with City announcing his departure two hours after Saturday's match at Eastlands.
"The speed with which my successor's appointment was announced suggests the club made its decision some time ago," said Hughes through a statement released by the League Managers' Association.
But Cook said the decision to replace Hughes was first discussed after City's 1-1 draw with Hull on 28 November while the decision to appoint Mancini was not finalised until after the 3-0 loss to Tottenham on 16 December.
Former Inter Milan boss Mancini later admitted he had met with City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak a fortnight ago to discuss football "in general".
Despite defeat by City in what turned out to be Hughes' last game in charge, Sunderland boss Steve Bruce - a former United team-mate of the Welshman - lent his support to Hughes.
Ferguson feels that gesture showed a loyalty City were lacking in their treatment of their former manager.
"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. 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."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.