"I thought we were lucky to get a point up at Sunderland. It’s the toughest game we’ve had away from home, and we’re in for a particularly hard game on Sunday."

– Sir Alex Ferguson

23/12/2010 15:09, Report by James Tuck
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The season to be jolly

Sir Alex Ferguson is happy to be top of the league at Christmas – and determined still to be there after United’s busy run of festive fixtures.

The Reds boss has long insisted that the title race really starts to take shape in the New Year, so he’s keen for his side to remain in pole position after the four games in 10 days against Sunderland, Birmingham, West Brom and Stoke.

But he also knows there’s a possibility one or more of those fixtures could go the way of Chelsea and Blackpool and be postponed because of the inclement weather.

"My aim is to be top of the league by January 4," Sir Alex said. "If we’re still top then, we’ve done well.

"Someone asked me 'are you surprised to be top of the league? I’m only surprised that people are surprised all the top teams are dropping points. They don’t recognise how tough the league is now.

"It’s a hectic period for us, though not as much as usual because of the two games that were postponed in December. Nonetheless, four games in the space of 10 days is a big job, though of course we could have more postponements yet."

United will be well aware of the threat posed by Steve Bruce’s sixth-placed Sunderland, who were unlucky not to beat the Reds in the goalless draw at the Stadium of Light in October and also claimed a stunning 3-0 win at Chelsea last month.

"I thought we were lucky to get a point up at Sunderland," Sir Alex added. "It’s the toughest game we’ve had away from home, I think.

"Their away form has not been great – Steve has referred to that. But I watched the game [at Chelsea] and they could have won by six or seven that day.

"I could point to maybe six perfect performances in all the time I’ve been here, and Steve will look at that game as one of those. It was absolutely brilliant.

So I think we’re dealing with a team with ability and drive, and we’re in for a particularly hard game."

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