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Ferguson rounds on Liverpool after Villa thriller

Sir Alex Ferguson resumed his mind games with Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez after Manchester United's dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa enabled his side to reclaim the leadership of the Premier League.

sports Updated: Apr 06, 2009 08:49 IST

Sir Alex Ferguson resumed his mind games with Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez after Manchester United's dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa enabled his side to reclaim the leadership of the Premier League.

Ferguson still has an opportunity to collect five trophies this season now that United have one a point lead at the top of the table with a marvellous morale boost ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Porto.

But the United manager is more interested in stirring up trouble for his closest challengers for the Premier League title, in response to Benitez's query over whether United can handle the pressure after Liverpool beat Fulham on Saturday.

Ferguson has turned the heat back onto Benitez and, in a deliberate move to intensify further the rivalry between Liverpool and Chelsea ahead of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, has claimed that two-legged affair is also a contest to determine who will challenge United for the title.

Liverpool are still viewed as the leading contenders but Ferguson encouraged Chelsea, four points off top spot having, in common with Benitez's men, played one more game than United.

"Everyone is screaming that Liverpool are our challenge," Ferguson said. "But I think whoever wins between Liverpool and Chelsea in the Champions League will be our biggest threat because of the effect it will have on them.

"It is an emotional fixture. There are never a lot of goals and it's very, very tight and whoever wins that will take a big step forward."

Whatever the outcome of that domestic battle, Ferguson also believes his side deserve to claim an 18th English title, because of the adventurous manner they have adopted all season, even during Sunday's win over Villa when they were without Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Paul Scholes.

Former Lazio youth team striker Federico Macheda's winning goal three minutes into stoppage time provided a late show to better Liverpool's against Fulham 24 hours earlier while putting a huge dent into Villa's own hopes of Champions League qualification.

Ferguson believes the adventurous ethos at Old Trafford, exemplified by his bringing 17-year-old Macheda off the bench, made United the more worthy title winners ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool.

"At 2-2 I was thinking gamble," he said of a match where Cristiano Ronaldo equalised to make it 2-2 with 10 minutes left after headers from John Carew and Gabriel Agbonlahor had put the visitors on course for victory following the Portugal winger's opener.

"Winning is the name of the game at this club," Ferguson said. "We play the right way and we deserved to win, even if we took some risks. Risks are part of football and this club is built on that.

"It has been around a long long time and I love the thrill of it myself.

"Yes we defend poorly at times and we defended poorly for the goals but there is always a goal threat in us.

"You think we will score a goal and it is a great boost for us to come from behind and secure a great win.

"We are the top of the table and that is where we want to be in terms of points," said Ferguson of a win which followed league defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Fulham.

"We have had a little blip but we have recovered to win with seven or eight players out, four or five of our very top team.

"These young players are prepared to go to the very end. They deserve great credit for that. Through that (Villa) result, the season could change for us."