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English Premiership

Vidic demands response

NEWCASTLE, England, April 19 – Nemanja Vidic has told his Manchester United team-mates to erase their FA Cup agony by taking complete control of the title race with a win at Newcastle on Tuesday.

If Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were feeling sorry for themselves in the aftermath of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against arch rivals Manchester City at Wembley, they were given the perfect pick-me-up 24 hours later as Arsenal squandered a chance to close the gap on the leaders.

The Gunners were moments away from moving within four points of United after Robin van Persie’s stoppage time penalty, but Dirk Kuyt netted a spot-kick equaliser for Liverpool in the 12th minute of added time.

That left United six points clear with both teams having six games to play and delivered a hammer blow to Arsenal’s challenge.

Ferguson’s men can extend their advantage to nine points with a win on Tyneside, as well as piling further pressure on Arsenal ahead of their north London derby at Tottenham on Wednesday.

Losing to City may have ended United’s treble hopes, but skipper Vidic knows the Premier League leaders have a chance to redeem themselves as they close in on their 19th domestic league title.

"We just have to think about the next game against Newcastle, especially after losing the semi-final to City," Vidic said.

"It will be a very important game for us. We still have many games to play. We have to play the best we can and win that game.

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"At the moment we are thinking more about the loss but there are another two opportunities for some silverware, and we have to make sure we take them."

Ferguson insists his players won’t dwell on the cup disappointment and he said: "Going to Newcastle is the most important game we have coming up because the league is still our first priority.

"The Premier League and the Champions League are the two priorities at this club.

"The players had a big adrenaline surge for the semi-final with Manchester City but we need to win on Tuesday.

"And that’s why Newcastle and the home game with Everton next Saturday are vital – after that there are only four games left and then we go to Arsenal the following week.

"So it’s absolutely crucial for us and I think everybody knows when you go to Newcastle you have to deal with the atmosphere up there. They have fantastic supporters and you know they will be on your backs."

Wayne Rooney will be available for United after serving his two-match ban for swearing into a television camera.

Ferguson is ready to recall the England striker against the Magpies, with Rooney backed to come back fresh and firing for the run-in.

"He has such great energy but it’s fair to say his FA ban means he will be fresh for the Newcastle game," he said.

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"Wayne had a difficult start to the season because things were happening off the pitch and it wasn’t the best of times, but he is playing with great confidence now."

Meanwhile, Alan Pardew is confident mid-table Newcastle can end their near 10-year wait for a victory over United by taking advantage of the fatigue caused by United’s hectic schedule.

Newcastle have gone 17 games without beating Ferguson’s side since their last win under Sir Bobby Robson in September 2001.

But with eight full days’ rest since they were last in action, Pardew hopes to exploit tired legs less than 72 hours after the leaders’ Wembley appearance.

"We’ve got an opportunity to have a go at United," Pardew said. "That’s what we’re going to try to do, we’ll be set up to try and win. We want to put them under pressure, and force errors.

"United have had a tough schedule. They’ve come off the back of games with Chelsea and Manchester City and as a result we should have more energy, and that could even it up given the quality they have."

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