Sir Alex Ferguson described his team's performance in their win over Newcastle United today as "Championship-winning" form.
Ferguson's side exploited Manchester City's defeat when Javier Hernandez scored in the 90th minute to cap an absorbing game in which the home side fell behind three times before prevailing. Ferguson also berated referee Mike Dean and his assistant Jake Collin for allowing Newcastle's second goal to stand after the linesman first signalled that it should be disallowed.
Manchester United were also without Wayne Rooney who, Ferguson said, will miss "two to three weeks", having pulled a knee ligament in training. Ashley Young was also injured in the same session and Danny Welbeck was taken ill at the team hotel, leaving Ferguson without any strikers on his bench.
"It's a great quality to have," Ferguson said. "Once again they have proved their courage. Never gave in. Down three times and eventually they deserved to win the game. The statement was the performance, never mind where we are at this moment in time. That was a Championship-winning performance."
Asked whether he was worried about the three goals his side conceded, Ferguson said: "You have to be. It's only the courage of the team that got us out of the mire again. And because of the attacking play we've got. Some of the football in the second half was fantastic, in these conditions [it was] great.
"I wish it was the last game of the season. It tells you about the courage of our team. We had a lot of bad decisions against us in the first half. That could have demoralised the team. But they didn't give in. We were down three times and came back three times, then we scored the winner. It is a really significant result for us. It puts us in a good position. As I always say about December, it is a month that tells you everything. Hopefully, when we come to 1 January, after that game at Wigan, we are still top."
Alan Pardew bemoaned his side's defending that allowed the home team back into the game and also a bad tackle by Antonio Valencia on Vurnon Anita towards the end of the game. Pardew said: "I was a bit upset with that tackle. I have seen it again and I don't think it was malicious but Valencia has mistimed it badly and, unfortunately, it might cost us a player. It's too early to say what is wrong. It is a bang on the ankle. We will have to see whether he will make Arsenal on Saturday. If not, it would be a loss"
There was confusion over Newcastle's second goal, with Papiss Cissé originally in an offside position before Jonny Evans put the ball in his own goal. Collin flagged for offside but it was decided by Dean that Cissé was not interfering with play. Ferguson pursued Dean on to the pitch at the end of half-time to argue that Cissé had been interfering and that the goal should not have stood. Ferguson said: "The linesman correctly whistled for offside because Ba [it was Cissé] was offside when the cross was made and he also pulled Jonny Evans' arm. If that's not interference then what is?"