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Fergie hails Giggs as United go top

sports Updated: Sep 27, 2009 17:30 IST

AFP
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Sir Alex Ferguson paid tribute to Ryan Giggs for the inspiration he provided in the 2-0 defeat of Stoke which sent Manchester United to the Premier League summit for the first time this season.

United manager Ferguson believes Welsh midfielder Giggs will play a crucial role in the champions' attempt to retain the English title this season after another decisive display in Saturday's win at the Britannia Stadium.

Giggs already has 11 Premier League winners medals to his collection, but the 35-year-old showed he is still razor-sharp in body and mind as he produced a 20-minute period of mayhem, after replacing Portuguese international Nani, that secured a seventh straight victory for United in all competitions.

He will be 36 in November and benefitted from being given some rest after his excursions in the Manchester derby last Sunday, before emerging to set up goals for Dimitar Berbatov and John O'Shea, on the Irish international's 350th appearance for the club.

"Ryan is just so important to us as a player and he is so intelligent," Ferguson said. "It was marvellous movement from Ryan for the first goal and an excellent ball to Dimitar.

"He had had a difficult game the previous weekend, because he used up so much energy and put so much into his performance.

"I thought it was best to have him on the substitutes bench, but he just gives us something else when he is in the team."

Chelsea only just scraped past Stoke with a stoppage time winner earlier this month, so the comfortable nature of the victory encouraged Ferguson as he leap-frogged over his main rivals for the title this season.

Victory at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day last year was the time Ferguson feels set United on the way to their title success and although this is much earlier, the Scot is delighted to be back at the top of the table, where he feels his club belongs.

"Winning here last season set us on our way and I thought we showed great composure in possession. Chelsea have lost (against Wigan), so this was a good three points for us. I just wish I was saying that in May, not September," Ferguson said.

The only low point for the United manager was Stoke's attempt to get Paul Scholes sent off in the second half, for handball, after he had earlier been booked for a clumsy tackle on Liam Lawrence.

Referee Howard Webb resisted the demands from Stoke players to the relief of the United boss.

"I didn't think it was handball against Scholes. It would have been an injustice if he had been sent off. He made two tackles in the whole game and gets booked. It's unbelievable. He is an easy target for referees," Ferguson added.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis refused to apologise for his side's negative approach, after utlising nine players behind the ball for long periods and operating with a solitary striker in Dave Kitson.

He claimed that Turkish international Tuncay and James Beattie were not fully fit, even though both players were introduced late in the game in a bid to salvage something after Berbatov's goal.

"Some days you lose and you just have to admit the better team won. Sir Alex and his players deserve all the plaudits. We were not negative, we just got pushed back by a very good team," he said.

"I don't know why, but we were a little bit flat and when you play against the top teams every one has to be right up for it. Giggs and Scholes are not great to watch when they are beating your team, but they are magnificent.

"Scholes was the best player on the pitch by a country mile and I don't think too many teams have come here and been so comfortable against us."