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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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Ferguson: Advantage Manchester in title race

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was pleased to see his side's 1-0 win over West Ham open up a gap above Chelsea at the top of the Premier League table.

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The win at Old Trafford keeps United top of the league, one point ahead of local rivals and defending champions Manchester City who won 2-0 at Wigan on Wednesday.

Chelsea's 0-0 draw at home to Fulham - their second stalemate in as many games under manager Rafael Benitez - leaves the west London club seven points off the pace, and Ferguson believes that gap leaves the two Manchester clubs with the advantage in the title race.

"Tonight's results have drawn us away from Chelsea a little bit further," he said. "We're still ahead in the league but City are on our tails and it's going to be a long season."

United's win came courtesy of Robin van Persie's strike after just 33 seconds, but they were unable to increase their lead against the Hammers.

Ferguson, however, knows how vital such narrow victories can be in the final reckoning come the end of the season.

"The importance of winning 1-0 in certain games is that your opponents know the resilience is there," he said. "If you look at some of the really important 1-0s we've had... go back to beating Newcastle when they were nine points clear of us in 1996 — our 1-0 that night won us the league.

"There are important 1-0 victories. We've had many of them."

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