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Sir Alex counts cost of victory over Portsmouth

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was left purring after his side beat Portsmouth 2-0 to move three points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand, but was left to rue injuries to defenders Gary Neville and John O'Shea.

The defensive duo look set to be "out for weeks" at a crucial stage of the season but at least United can take comfort in being a step closer to retaining their title.

Goals from Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick secured the points to take full advantage of Liverpool's 4-4 draw at home to Arsenal on Tuesday evening, but in truth the game should have been put to bed long before Carrick netted in the 82nd minute.

The victory means United will secure the title against Arsenal at Old Trafford on May 16 should both they and Liverpool win their upcoming games.

Sir Alex was critical about referee Peter Walton following the injuries to both of his players, claiming the official should have taken stronger action against the culprits.

Neville limped off with a foot injury early in the match before his replacement, O'Shea, suffered an ankle injury after a tackle from Nadir Belhadj.

"They are out for weeks,'' said Ferguson. "They were both bad tackles but the referee didn't do anything about them.

"You normally expect some firm discipline from Peter Walton - but not this time.''

Sir Alex has, though, been handed a boost as Wes Brown is set to return just in time

"Wes is fine. He is training hard and should be OK for the weekend,'' United assistant manager Mike Phelan told BBC Radio Manchester.

Brown has been missing with a foot injury since October.

Despite the welcome three points, the manager was not entirely happy.

"In the first-half we produced some of our best football all season," said Ferguson.

"But we missed a lot of chances. It gave them encouragement and when they created a couple of chances in the second-half I thought 'we are going to throw this away'.

"It is so embarrassing to be talking about throwing a game away when you should be maybe six goals up."

Portsmouth manager Paul Hart believes the Premier League title is in the bag

"I can't see anything to stop them becoming champions,'' said the Pompey chief. "They are an extremely good side and the result at Anfield on Tuesday was a major boost for them.''

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