FOOTBALL NEWS

26/12/2012 19:17, Report by Adam Bostock
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Boss commends United 'courage'

Sir Alex Ferguson will be at the head of his favourite table on his birthday and beyond - the Barclays Premier League table.

The Manchester United manager saw his team's title-race lead over Manchester City grow to seven points on Boxing Day, as the Reds beat Newcastle 4-3 while the Blues lost 1-0 away to another North-East side, Sunderland. Roberto Mancini's men slipped up by the same score at the same ground last season, on New Year's Day.

"I wish this was the last game of the season!" Sir Alex told MUTV, minutes after Javier Hernandez sealed the Reds' 4-3 victory in injury time. "What this tells you about is the courage of our team. Fantastic courage. The players never gave in. We improved our game enormously [after trailing 2-1 at half-time] which we had to do."

The goal which put the Reds behind for a second time was the talk of the press lounge, if not the entire Old Trafford stadium, at half-time. Initially, it was considered to be a Papiss Cisse strike from an offside position - as ruled by a referee's assistant on the South Stand touchline. But then referee Mike Dean overruled, declaring it to be an own goal by Jonny Evans and thus giving Newcastle the lead at 2-1.

"The referee changed the linesman's mind," explained Sir Alex. "The referee said it was an own goal [by Jonny Evans, and therefore not offside] but if you see it again... the referee couldn't see it and that's why his linesman has to come into it [the decision making]. The Newcastle striker is in an offside position and as the ball's played in, he pulls Jonny Evans' arm. If that's not interfering with play, what is interference?

"I think it was a bad decision but Mike Dean deserves the benefit of a video replay, which I had [at half-time]. When I saw it, I knew rightaway it was a mistake. We had a lot of decisions against us in the first half and sometimes that can demoralise a team. But the players didn't give in and that's a great quality to have. I'm pleased that we came back three times after going down three times and then scoring the winner.

"Chicharito deservedly got the winner, his movement and courage were unbelievable. He and van Persie were absolutely

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