Fergie salutes his troops

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MANCHESTER, April 18 – Sir Alex Ferguson heaped praise upon his Manchester United players and their taste for the dramatic after his team's derby victory at Manchester City, a result that catapulted the defending champions back into the English Premier League title race.Paul Scholes’s 93rd minute goal secured a 1-0 win at Eastlands here on Saturday against a City team themselves desperate for three points as they aim to clinch fourth place and a first-ever taste of Champions League football.

Events in Manchester, coupled with Tottenham’s victory over table-toppers Chelsea later on Saturday had an enormous impact on the top of the table, leaving United just a point behind the leaders and lifting Spurs above City into fourth.

Given United’s history of dramatic late victories in their glory years under Ferguson, the outcome of the Manchester derby should have come as no surprise yet it appeared to have almost caught the veteran manager by surprise.

"That’s the quality, and part of the history, of this club. It’s a fantastic thing to have," said Ferguson of his team’s resilience.

"I think we deserved to win the game, I don’t think there is any question about that, but I couldn’t see a goal coming," the Scottish boss added.

"It looked like our title hopes were ending until the goal. It certainly would have made it very, very difficult if we had drawn.

"I’d almost given up and thought it would be 0-0. You know, with us, it’s happened so many times we score late and you always hope it will happen again. You always hope."

Ferguson added: "No-one is better than Scholes at ghosting into the box. There was no-one near him and it was a free header.

"Towards the end, City made chances themselves and it got a bit open. That freed it up a bit for Paul. I think he was man-of-the-match, he was absolutely fantastic, he is such a skillful player, he was wonderful today."

Scholes, 35, signed a new one-year contract extension with the only club of his career on Friday and was joined by fellow veterans Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs in the victorious United line-up.

"Experience in these games is definitely important," Ferguson said. "They have been in so many of these derby games over the years, it is vital. Apart from their own contributions, it also helps other players."

Ferguson was also impressed by his defence which prevented a City side that had scored 14 goals in its last three games from creating a real chance of note, a feat all the more impressive given England centre-back Rio Ferdinand was ruled out after failing a late fitness test.

"We wanted to keep a clean sheet because we know if we get back to zero against it gives us a chance," said Ferguson. "One-nil wins have played a big part in our title wins and 1-0 today shows that’s true."

A draw would have suited City manager Roberto Mancini far more than his opposite number, although his disappointment at a second defeat by United in his three meetings with them could be tempered by the fact Spurs still have to visit Eastlands this season, in the clubs’ penultimate game.

"We didn’t deserve to lose so I am disappointed and angry, for the players and the supporters," said Mancini.

"But this doesn’t change anything, we have four games left, four hard games but games we can win," the Italian added. "And if we beat Spurs here, in our second last game, we can still finish fourth."

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