Manchester United 'played like champions' claims Alex Ferguson

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson claimed his Manchester United side "played like champions" in the second half of their 4-2 win at West Ham on a potentially decisive day in this season's Barclays Premier League title race.

While a Wayne Rooney hat-trick inspired United to blaze back from a 2-0 half-time deficit at Upton Park, rivals Arsenal were held at home by Blackburn and Chelsea had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Stoke.

Ferguson said: "We played like champions. It was a championship performance as far as I'm concerned. I said to them at half time, 'goal difference doesn't matter now. You're getting something from this game'."

Two Mark Noble penalties swept the Hammers ahead but Rooney struck three times in 15 second-half minutes and Javier Hernandez sealed the points. United are now seven points in front of the Gunners who have a game in hand.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger refused to write off the title after his side's poor display against Rovers but said: "It was a flat performance with a lack of energy and sharpness. It was a quite a big concern to see."

Chelsea are a further four points behind the Gunners after they were held at the Britannia Stadium. Didier Drogba cancelled out Jonathan Walters' early strike but Stoke had the best chances to win it.

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti said: "We have to continue to do our best. The gap (to United) was not easy before this game and now it is more difficult but we have to think game by game."

West Brom boss Roy Hodgson refused to take any extra pleasure out of his side's dramatic 2-1 win over his former club Liverpool at The Hawthorns.

Martin Skrtel put Liverpool ahead five minutes after the break but two late penalties from captain Chris Brunt sealed a victory that sent Albion up to 12th place, four points clear of the drop zone.

Hodgson said: "I get no extra pleasure from beating Liverpool. I made a lot of friends when I was at Liverpool. The pleasure I take is beating Liverpool because it is not something West Brom do very often."

Two Darren Bent goals eased the pressure on Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier in a 2-2 draw at Everton. Leighton Baines equalised late on for the home side who also had a 'goal' from Jermaine Beckford disallowed.

Beckford thought he had scored in the 68th minute when his shot hit the underside of the bar and bounced down over the line. But referee Mike Jones waved play on - and moments later Bent surged up the other end to score his second.

Tottenham's Champions League bid was hit by a goalless draw at Wigan, Birmingham eased their relegation fears with a 2-1 win over Bolton, and Newcastle hammered struggling Wolves 4-1.





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