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"If we are top of the league on New Year’s Day, we know fine well and everyone else knows fine well that we are going to be in that ball-park at the end of the season."
- Sir Alex Ferguson
22/12/2012 09:00, Report by Adam Marshall

Boss enjoys challenge

Sir Alex Ferguson felt Manchester City's win at Newcastle in their last outing suggests the title race is going to be another epic battle.

After losing to Robin van Persie's injury-time free-kick at the Etihad Stadium, the pressure was on Roberto Mancini's men to respond in the tricky trip to Tyneside. A 3-1 victory closed the gap at the top, even if United stretched it back to six points when beating Sunderland by the same scoreline.

When asked if City's response indicated they are not going away, the boss replied: "Absolutely. Great. I think it is a wake-up call for us too. Although you see the stats and it's quite amazing as Newcastle had more passes and shots on goal, you watch it yourself and I am saying I can't see Newcastle winning the game. It is a funny game."

The manager is experienced enough to realise that claiming a record 20th title is never going to be straightforward.

"We have every right to expect a challenge," he asserted. "It is what we are good at. That’s why I am looking at December as an opportunity to gather points and make sure we are top of the league come New Year’s Day.

"If we are top of the league on New Year’s Day, we know fine well and everyone else knows fine well that we are going to be in that ball-park at the end of the season. We know there is going to be a challenge, it could come from Chelsea too but certainly City and ourselves will be battling it out."

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