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Fergie: Manchester derby will be vital

The Manchester derby could still have a major impact on the destination of the Premier League title, according to Sir Alex Ferguson.

Manchester United opened up a five-point gap at the top of the table after a 2-0 win over Blackburn on Monday and could be eight clear of rivals City should they beat QPR at Old Trafford on Sunday.

City, who can boast just one win in four games, travel to Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal on the same day - a tough proposition with the north London club fighting to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.

It is conceivable United could have a 20th top-flight title wrapped up by the time they face City at the Etihad Stadium on April 30.

However, Ferguson told Northern Irish radio station U105.8fm: "Derby games are always important, and it could be even more important this year. It's bound to have an impact on the eventual winner, albeit that we're going into it with a nice healthy lead.''

United have made a habit over the years of finding their best form during the title run-in, and Ferguson highlighted the performances of defender Jonny Evans as a key factor.

When captain Nemanja Vidic suffered a serious knee injury in December, ruling him out for the rest of the season, it seemed like it might be a terminal blow to the champions' title hopes, but Northern Ireland international Evans has stepped into the breach and formed an impressive partnership with Rio Ferdinand.

"He's been excellent,'' Ferguson said. "He's maturing, his form in the last two months with Rio Ferdinand has been absolutely fantastic and that's really important to have a partnership at the back that's consistent and playing all the time.''

Meanwhile, Ferguson revealed he will take his strongest available squad over to Northern Ireland for the testimonial of former United goalkeeper Harry Gregg at Windsor Park on May 15.

United will take on an Irish League Select XI managed by Sunderland's Martin O'Neill and Linfield boss David Jeffrey to honour the 79-year-old, a hero of the Munich disaster. Ferguson added: "We're bringing our strongest team over.

"For Manchester United to honour a player who, apart from (saving) his peers from the Munich air disaster, you've got to remember the career he had here. It's absolutely apt that we send our best squad.''

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