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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 March, 2003, 16:04 GMT
Ferguson delights in top spot
Wes Brown suffered a hamstring injury against Fulham
Wes Brown injured his hamstring

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson singled out hat-trick hero Ruud van Nistelrooy for special praise as his side returned to the top of the Premiership.

But he admitted that the team had not escaped unscathed, and said Wes Brown and Republic of Ireland defender John O'Shea both reported hamstring problems.

Ferguson was particularly impressed with van Nistelrooy's second goal, which he finished in style after a surging 50-yard run.

"It was a fantastic goal," said the Scot.

Ferguson admitted that the race for the Premiership title looked like going to the end of the season.

"These are exciting times. There's pressure on everyone at the top - Newcastle might come up on the inside rail. The important thing for us is to concentrate on our job," he said.

We battled well today and I didn't think it was a 3-0
Fulham's Andy Melville

Van Nistelrooy said the goal was probably his best strike since joining United - although he said it was not the best of his career.

And he dismissed claims he had elbowed Sylvain Legwinski after receiving the ball in his own half.

"Elbow? I don't know. Maybe it happened - but it didn't happen on purpose," he said.

"You can't beat Saturdays like this with the atmosphere, the weather, the pitch. It was tremendous to play, and the result and the goals have made it a hell of a day."

But defender Brown is a doubt for England's forthcoming Euro 2004 qualifiers.

"I wasn't going to use Wes but I had to. I will speak to Sven (Goran Eriksson, England coach)," said Ferguson.

Fulham's Andy Melville said he felt Fulham had been harshly treated by the match officials, both with the van Nistelrooy incident and the first-half penalty.

"We battled well and I didn't think it was a 3-0," he said.

"They may have taken their foot off the pedal in the second half but I thought we could have got away with a lot less than that."

Melville would not be drawn in who would win the race for the title.

"It's a difficult choice. On this performance they (United) are not far away but Arsenal are firing as well. I'm sure it will go to the wire."



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