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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jan 31, 2009

Ferguson insists league race has long way to run

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson insists the Premier League title is a long way from being decided - even if they are five points clear at the top.

Cristiano Ronaldo's 44th-minute penalty was enough to give United victory over Everton at Old Trafford and extend their lead over Chelsea and Liverpool.

United's two nearest rivals play each other at Anfield tomorrow so at least one will drop points but that, according to Ferguson, will not make his side bigger favourites to retain their title.

''It is an advantage (to be five points clear). I can't say it is a great advantage with 16 games left,'' he said.

''But it is always better to be top of the league than anywhere else.

''We have a difficult game away against West Ham next week and there are a lot of difficult games in the run-in and teams will drop points.

''We just hope we don't drop as many as the rest. I'll be looking for a draw tomorrow.''

Ferguson was frustrated his side did not put the result beyond doubt after dominating the match but failing to break down Everton from open play.

''I think we had a lot of chances in the match but we never put Everton to bed,'' he said.

''A second goal would have put the result in our favour without question.

''If you are not taking that second chance you are not sure of the game and Everton kept going because of that, showed great resilience and athleticism and took it right to the wire.

''They kept their energy going well and with us being only 1-0 in front they kept going.

''They didn't make any chances but they had a lot of play up to the box.''

The United boss said referee Mark Halsey made the right decision to award the penalty against Mikel Arteta for bringing down Michael Carrick.

However, he felt his side should have had a second for Joleon Lescott's challenge on Carrick just after the interval.

''It (the first challenge) was inside the box and I don't think Arteta tried to but he has clearly brought him down and it was a penalty,'' the Scot added.

''I think [the second] was a clear penalty, no question about it. It was more of a penalty than the first one but you are not going to get two penalties, let's be honest.''

Everton manager David Moyes paid tribute to his side for their work-rate but he did not think either incident warranted a penalty and neither did Rio Ferdinand's challenge on Lescott late in the game.

''They stuck at it. In the first half we needed our goalkeeper (Tim Howard) to be inspirational to keep us in it,'' he said.

''We were playing against a good team and you need a bit of luck and I think it might have gone against us in the penalty decision.

''I can sometimes see them given but thought it was quite light. I didn't think between the three of them (Carrick's and Lescott's) there was a penalty in it.

''I didn't think any of them merited any decisions but I thought the referee had a good game and have no qualms with him.''

A 12th successive United clean sheet broke an English league football record and goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar has now gone 1,122 minutes without conceding a goal.

The last player to score against him was Arsenal's Samir Nasri in the Gunners' 2-1 victory at the Emirates on November 8.

''It is fantastic. I couldn't believe it when I read the last goal we conceded was against Arsenal way back in November - that's incredible,'' said Ferguson.

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