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WhoScored: Smalling, Blind impress for Man United

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Fergie: United spirit key to success

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United's professionalism and spirit has been key to putting them on the brink of a Premier League and Champions League double, though he admitted the current side is lacking "the Ronaldo factor".

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United were derided in some quarters earlier this season and were labelled the 'unconvinceables' for remaining unbeaten for a long stretch without ever really dazzling, while Marseille boss Didier Deschamps said the team "has a bit less fantasy than we have seen in the past".

But despite the criticism, United look certain to claim a record 19th league title and a place in the Champions League final appears guaranteed after a superb semi-final first leg demolition of Schalke on Tuesday.

And though Ferguson is happy to admit his side lack some of the glamour they had when former World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo led the line at Old Trafford, the wily Scot was more focused on praising the qualities of his current crop.

"This team might not have the 'Ronaldo' factor, but it doesn't understand the word defeat," Ferguson told Inside United. "It's determined, gritty and very professional, and it's produced some great moments.

"It's not as if we've been devoid of that ['fantasy']. Some of the football we've seen from the players this season has been terrific."

Asked whether the thought of overtaking Liverpool as the most successful side in English football history is helping to drive his side towards the finish line, Ferguson said: "I don't think it's on our minds at the moment.

"If we achieve it, it'll be great to reflect on, but at the moment we know we've got some hard games left. We look forward to the challenge, though. It's important to keep momentum going by winning games. That's vital.

"Draws don't come into it now, it's all about wins. We've got a big few games coming up and we need to win them."

United face Arsenal this weekend, knowing that a win would see them take a decisive step towards the title, and Ferguson said he is relishing the stage of the season that he once famously described as "squeaky-bum time".

"This is the greatest part of your job, having big game after big game," he said. "We've had some fantastic games over the years at this stage of the season, but we've also had some disappointments. You've just got to take the rough with the smooth.

"You just have to use your experience, and fortunately I've got a team of staff who have been with me for a long time. Having that continuity and consistency is a great thing - we know how to deal with situations.

"The players see how staff behave and how they conduct themselves in situations like we're in at the moment, and there's a lot of experience amongst the backroom team, which provides a calming influence.

"Two or three of the older players help too. The likes of Ryan [Giggs], Paul [Scholes], Rio [Ferdinand] and Edwin [van der Sar] - we've got enough experience to handle any situation that comes along."

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