Ferguson cools title talk with finish line in sight
United manager says his team's 15-point lead at the top of the table in the pursuit of a record 20th league title is the result of six months' hard toil
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has warned his team not to get carried away by believing they can romp to a record English Premier League triumph.
United are 15 points clear at the top after their 1-0 home win over Reading had followed defending champions Manchester City's 2-0 defeat at Everton.
But Ferguson refused to be complacent despite United being in a position to win the title by a record margin. The 18 points by which United won the 2000 championship from Arsenal remains the largest winning cushion, not only in Premier League history but in the history of top-flight English football.
"They can say what they like. You don't get points or medals for being complacent and we won't be," said Ferguson.
"It wasn't a great performance but we are where we are today is not down to today, it's down to the previous six months. The team have shown great consistency and played a lot of great football and the difference over City is big now, 15 points.
"We've been playing well this season, it's been a great season for us. We're 15 points ahead but it's the previous six months that have done it for us, really."
Match winner Wayne Rooney echoed his manager and refused to get carried away by the commanding gap, a margin which looks certain to bring them a 20th English league championship.
"You have to be professional. We know we're in a fantastic position with nine games to go and 15 points clear but we have to go out and do our job week in, week out," he said.
Victory for United against Sunderland in their next game, coupled with a City defeat would build Ferguson's side an 18-point advantage ahead of the Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
A win for United in that fixture, on April 8, would leave City mathematically unable to overhaul United's point tally in the seven remaining matches.
After the defeat at Everton, City manager Roberto Mancini was so angry that he did not go through with his usual media duties, leaving assistant David Platt to face the press.
"Nobody's been shouting from the rooftops saying we are chasing Manchester United down," said Platt.
"They've got a significant points advantage over us, even if we'd won [at Everton]. We have an obligation to try and win football matches and be professional."
Mancini at least has an FA Cup semi-final against either United or Chelsea to look forward to next month, but there appears to be little else to play for in the Premier League.
Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal have been transformed by their gallant Champions League exit to Bayern Munich, but warned they couldn't afford any slips in their challenge for a top-four finish.
Although Wenger's side were eliminated from the Champions League on the away-goals rule in midweek despite winning 2-0 at the Allianz Arena, the positive vibes following that impressive performance were clear to see as Arsenal beat League Cup winners Swansea 2-0.
The win at the Liberty Stadium moved Arsenal to within two points of Chelsea, who lie in fourth position in the Premier League, ahead of the Blues' meeting with West Ham United overnight.
"I'm a great admirer of the attitude of this team. To win on Wednesday transformed this team," Wenger said.
"You can't question the attitude and the solidarity. Now they have to show this until the end of the season.
"There will be big pressure but I think we will come through it because we know what is expected and we have been here before."
Second-half goals from Nacho Monreal, the Spanish left-back's first since his January move from Malaga, and Ivory Coast forward Gervinho secured three valuable points.
But Wenger maintained the true significance of the victory would not be felt until the end of the season.
"We will know how important this win was at the end of the season. But we knew we couldn't afford to drop points," he added.
"Overall, it is difficult to win away in the Champions League and then win away in the Premier League and I would like to congratulate the players for that."