Ferguson praises recent run of form by Arsenal

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that Arsenal would be worthy champions in their recent form. The Manchester United manager had hoped to be within striking distance of Arsenal going into tomorrow's title decider at Old Trafford. However, Arsenal's 11-game winning run means that a draw at Old Trafford will secure their second Double in four years.

As disappointed as Ferguson is by Arsenal's form, he also appreciates it. "In the situation we're in, we had hoped that Arsenal would have dropped two points or drawn a game to allow us an opportunity to win the league," he said. "If that had been the case, then this would have been our biggest game of the season. But they've got the cushion, although we've done our best.

"We've beaten Leeds away, Chelsea away and Ipswich away in the last few weeks, but Arsenal have been winning all their games as well, so great credit to them. That's championship form and you can't deny it.

"If you win your last 11 games, which they have done up until now, and in addition, I think they have not lost a goal in their last five games – that's championship form. No matter what happens earlier in the season, you win the league in April and May."

United are still hurting over their European Cup semi-final defeat to Bayer Leverkusen last week and Ferguson claims that tomorrow night's game will test his team's resilience. He is keen to see a positive reaction from his players and hopes they can win to take the title race to the final Saturday.

"I think the disappointment does last for a bit," he said. "But what you depend on is the players' character to get out of it. We have a massive game on Wednesday. We want to try and win the match and take it to the last game of the season, which would be fantastic drama for the league. By doing that we will have done our best."

Ferguson was quick to praise Juan Sebastian Veron, who has been made the scapegoat by many for that defeat to Leverkusen. He is angry at the media's treatment of the £28.1m Argentine and yet more stories claiming the midfielder is on his way back to Italy following a dressing-room row.

Ferguson dismissed the stories as "rubbish" and insisted that he is happy with Veron's form in his first English season.