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Sir Alex Ferguson ignores Manchester United critics

Javier Hernandez flicks Man United in front
Hernandez sets United on the way to victory with an impudent finish

Manager Sir Alex Ferguson urged his Manchester United team to ignore their critics after beating Stoke to go three points clear at the top of the league.

United were unconvincing once again and needed a stunning Nani goal to secure a 2-1 win at Old Trafford.

"We are an easy target for that kind of thing," said Ferguson, whose team has gone 20 matches unbeaten in the league.

"But we just have to dismiss it and concentrate on our ambitions and that is to win the league."

He added: "You are always going to get people jumping on a bandwagon saying those things, but some of our performances this season have been terrific."

United dominated possession but laboured for long periods against Stoke on Tuesday and were grateful for Nani's glorious 62nd-minute strike after Dean Whitehead's header had cancelled out Javier Hernandez's fine opener.

Phelan happy as Man Utd extend advantage

Hernandez flicked a cross from Nani between his legs and into the net to score his ninth goal of the season and Ferguson admitted the Mexican was giving him a selection headache.

"Of course it gives me a problem when Wayne Rooney is fit again," said Ferguson, who left Rooney out so the England striker could rest his ankle problem.

"But that is the kind of problem you want. Over the years, the strikers I have had have always given me that problem.

"That is Chico's [Hernandez's] job. And as long as he keeps putting the ball in the net, he is giving me those problems."

Ferguson also paid tribute to some of his squad players who came in against Stoke, like 21-year-old defender Chris Smalling, who impressed on his first Premier League start for the club.

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"You have to have faith and trust in the players," said Ferguson. "They have earned that trust. I see them every day in training and in the games they have played in. They have never let me down.

"Chris Smalling was excellent. At 20 years of age he is doing very well. I am pleased with his improvement. Along with Jonny Evans, he is certainly the future of the club."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis paid tribute to United's strength in depth after the leaders made six changes following their 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday and still put out a strong line-up.

"We've played them twice this season and run them close twice but they are a good team with very fine players who can hurt you whichever team they put out," said Pulis.

"They brought Nani and Ryan Giggs back and they were always a threat both out wide and through the middle. It's a trait with all the top clubs - they can make five or six changes and the players who come in are the same standard as those who are left out.

"We restricted them to only a few chances so that was good and it was nice to finally score a goal at Old Trafford [Stoke's first since 1980].

"But Nani's goal was something special, a really terrific strike and he showed his great ability."

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see also
Man Utd 2-1 Stoke
04 Jan 11 |  Premier League
Tuesday football as it happened
04 Jan 11 |  Football
Tuesday's football photos
04 Jan 11 |  Football
Smalling happy with performance
04 Jan 11 |  Man Utd


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