THE Premier League title race is yet to become one run only by Manchester City and Manchester United, according to Old Trafford manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The 70-year-old refuted claims before the weekend that the title was destined to stay in Manchester following City’s dramatic clinching of the crown last season.
But following a thrilling 4-3 win at Reading, after bitter rivals City had dropped points at home to Everton and out-ofform Chelsea lost at West Ham, there were renewed claims that only United and the reigning champions were in contention this time around.
Ferguson, who lambasted the defending from his side in a first half at the Madejski Stadium that saw Reading take the lead twice but ultimately succumb to a Robin van Persie match-winning strike after just 34 minutes, reckons the title race is still wide open.
Asked whether Saturday’s results really did make it a two-horse race for top spot the United boss said: “At this time you can’t really say that.
“You can’t say that but I think the important thing for us is to take lessons from the mistakes we are making and find a solution, because we are going to need it.’’ The hard-fought win over a Reading side who few thought could cause the league leaders quite as many problems as they did means United sit three points clear of City ahead of next weekend’s Manchester derby, with Chelsea now ten points adrift of top spot.
Ferguson saw his side come from behind to win for the seventh time in the league this season, with Anderson and a Wayne Rooney brace adding to van Persie’s strike, and despite defensive frailties midfielder Michael Carrick believes the United players always fancy themselves to dig out a result.
“Even if we do go a goal down we always feel we’ve got the firepower from different people,’’ he said.
‘‘That’s the strength in depth of the attacking options and that’s what keeps driving us on and we never give up.”
The 31-year-old England international reckons there is more to come from a United side that has already lost three times in the league this season.
“That’s the standards we set; we’re not happy until we know we’re playing to our potential,’’ he said.
“The pleasing thing is there’s a lot more to come from us. There’s a lot more room for improvement in certain aspects of our play but at the same time we’re sitting on top of the league and we’ve won again. We can’t get too down about things, there are a lot of positives.’’ Reading manager Brian McDermott saw his side take an early lead through a neat Hal Robson-Kanu volley and fightback from 2-1 down with headers from Adam Le Fondre and Sean Morrison to regain a lead they ultimately could not hold on to.
But the 51-year-old was delighted with the application of his players, as he has been most weeks following their promotion as winners of the npower Championship last season.
“I’m proud of my players, last year we were winning every week and that was nice,’’ he said.
‘‘This season is different, it is a different challenge for us and we know what our agenda is, you have to deal with the knock backs you get in this league very quickly.
“I do know that if we keep playing well and playing with the level of confidence and quality that we are doing the results will come.’’