Ferguson invective effective for United

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The Independent Football

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that the Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, had said some "strong words" to his players before their convincing win over Bolton on Tuesday night.

Angered by United's sloppy performance in their FA Cup defeat at Middlesbrough on Saturday, Sir Alex gave the team his infamous "hair-dryer" treatment before kick-off at the Reebok Stadium. His words worked, United winning 4-0

"The manager said a few strong words before the game, and we needed to show everyone that we were capable of winning," Solskjaer said. "It was important that we won the game really. We had to get back to winning ways.

"Those two defeats in a row against Liverpool and Middlesbrough were not nice. Those were games that we would have loved to have won. But we can't do anything about that now and we have to look forward. We've got Sunderland on Saturday – and that's very, very important because we need to get some wins together."

The victory, United's ninth in their last 10 League games, consolidates their position at the summit of the Premiership – and Ferguson intends to stay there.

After Ruud van Nistelrooy had hogged the headlines with his goalscoring exploits in recent weeks, it was Solskjaer's turn against Bolton. Van Nistelrooy led the back-slapping and said: "It's fantastic. The way he has performed this season is amazing. He has scored goals all season, and all credit to Ole. His hat-trick won the game for us."

Solskjaer threw down the gauntlet to the club's new signing Diego Forlan, who replaced him late on to make his United debut. The Norwegian's hat-trick, which was his first for United since December 1999, only confirmed what Ferguson has always felt about the striker.

"He's a marvellous finisher," Sir Alex said. "To score a hat-trick away from home is difficult in itself. The two headed goals were particularly good. They were well timed, just a glance of the head, and they were really well taken."

Ferguson refused to get too carried away by United's return to form and feels that their main rivals, Arsenal, Leeds and Liverpool, will pursue them right to the last game.

"This is the time of year we really have to step forward," he said. "There's no messing about and we need performances like this.

"We know there's a big challenge ahead of us. We've a lead that you hope remains, but it very seldom does.

"But that's good for Manchester United and we need the battles. We need the resistance from everyone and it could turn out come March or April that there are five or six teams involved. One may drop away, but it looks as if it could be a race right to the wire."

After a bright opening by Bolton in front of a record Reebok crowd of 27,350, United took charge when Solskjaer finished off a counter-attack to open the scoring on 15 minutes.

The Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce, felt that the goal should not have stood and he was adamant that Van Nistelrooy fouled Anthony Barness in the build-up.

"It was a blatant foul on Barness, which was plain for all to see," he said. That was a crucial decision as far as we were concerned. The game stands at 0-0, there's a blatant foul, the referee misses it and the opponents score as a result of it. It's a major decision as far as I'm concerned.

"It probably would not have affected the result perhaps and I think Manchester United would still have won, the mood they were in. But it was the wrong time to happen to us."

On 38 minutes it was 2-0 when Solskjaer glanced home David Beckham's corner. Ryan Giggs, excellent throughout, hit the post seconds after half-time before Solskjaer completed his hat-trick when he headed home a Beckham free-kick on 64 minutes.

Van Nistelrooy completed the scoring seven minutes from time when he side-footed home his 24th goal of the season.

The defeat stretched Bolton's run without a League win to 11 games and, more significantly, they have slipped down to 17th place in the table, just a solitary point off the relegation zone.