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English Premiership

Ferguson counting on character

WOLVERHAMPTON, March 5 – Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson feels his team's character will give them the edge in a three-way fight for the Premier League title with Chelsea and Arsenal.Chelsea let United and the Gunners off the hook last weekend with their surprise 4-2 home defeat to Manchester City.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side are in FA Cup action against Stoke on Sunday and United could move two points clear of the Blues with a victory over Wolves at Molineux.

Arsenal will also be strong favourites to pick up three points as they entertain struggling Burnley at the Emirates Stadium, setting the stage for a hard-to-call climax to the season.

United responded from their sixth Premier League defeat of the campaign, a 3-1 loss at Everton a fortnight ago, with a 3-0 victory over West Ham and a 2-1 win in the League Cup final against Aston Villa.

Ferguson feels that Arsenal have the most straightforward of the run-ins, with their next three matches seeing them come up against three bottom-half teams.

But the United manager, who is looking to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title, thinks that his team’s mentality will give them the edge in the final weeks of the campaign.

Ferguson said: "Arsenal are bang in the frame now. They have the easiest programme on paper and it will be an interesting run-in.

"Chelsea losing (to Manchester City) was a good result for us, but there are a lot of hard games left.

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"You have to focus at the turn of the year and make sure you don’t make mistakes.

"We lost to Everton and we were a bit tired. But we recovered against West Ham and we recovered again.

"We have shown time and time again that this football club has determination.

"They don’t give in and that is a good quality. You will see that in the remainder of the season. We won’t give in."

United will be without Michael Owen at Molineux due to a hamstring problem sustained in the League Cup final, while Rio Ferdinand is also set to miss out with a back problem.

Ryan Giggs is not ready to return from a broken arm but United can console themselves with the fact that Wayne Rooney is in the best form of his career.

Rooney has already scored 28 goals this season and club captain Gary Neville feels the England striker can deal with the extra attention coming the his way.

Neville said: "Wayne can handle all the praise and accolades, and any criticism.

"He is important to us. We have two months of important matches now and we need him fit for them.

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"He’s done the lot – playing in European Cup finals, FA Cup finals, World Cups and European Championships.

"He is maturing now and going through a peak time in his career. He looks dangerous whenever he plays and can score lots of goals."

Wolves are only outside the relegation zone on goal difference but midfielder Dave Jones is still confident that the strugglers can pull off a shock against the champions.

Jones came through the ranks at United and feels that Ferguson is the key reason for their sustained success.

He said: "We faced them in the League Cup and in the league at Old Trafford. I think it will be different at home and we have to believe we’ve got a chance.

"If we put in a good performance as we’ve done in previous weeks and with the crowd behind us then we’ve got a chance of picking something up.

"Sir Alex is the type of manager that just wants to keep going and get success. While he’s been at United there have been changes in the teams.

"The core has probably stayed the same but there have been changes around that over the years and they just keep winning trophies. They’ve got that winning mentality and will want to keep going in the league so they will be well up for the game."

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