sport

Ferguson salutes United

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson commended his team's performance following a controversial clash with Newcastle on Boxing Day that left his side seven points clear at the top of the table.

In a thrilling 4-3 win over the Magpies, Javier Hernandez' 90th-minute half-volley clinched the game, following second-half goals from Patrice Evra and Robin van Persie that twice pulled the Reds level, amidst a fine finish from Papiss Cisse.

While James Perch's fifth-minute opener for Newcastle was soon cancelled out by Jonny Evans, confusion surrounded Newcastle's second, with Evans putting through his own net with Papiss Cisse in an offside position and the assistant referee initially raising his flag.

Ferguson hailed his United side for their performance and said they thoroughly deserved the win.

He said: "Once again they've proved their courage, they never gave in, we were down three times and came back three times and eventually they deserved to win the game.

"The third goal was a killer to us, I couldn't believe it, the third goal was a kick in the teeth. But they never gave in, that's the quality and they kept making chances. If you keep making them, you're bound to score some of them. And eventually we did."

Speaking of Newcastle's second, and controversial, goal, Ferguson said: "The linesman correctly whistled for offside because Cisse was in the offside position when the cross was made, he also pulled on Evans' arm.

"If that's not interference, what is interference? That's the point I was making to Mike Dean."

Ferguson's side, who have now won their last 10 Boxing Day games, sit seven points clear at the top of the Premier League, with rivals Manchester City suffering a shock defeat to Sunderland.

Ferguson added: "Never mind where we are at this moment in time. That was a championship performance tonight. Absolutely unbelievable."