Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson acknowledged his team have a “big chance” of wrapping up the Barclays Premier League title after today’s 4-1 defeat of West Ham.
Two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and strikes from Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick moved United a step closer to the title at Old Trafford, with Dean Ashton scoring the Hammers’ consolation.
Victory at Wigan next Sunday will confirm United as champions but the coronation may come even earlier as Chelsea now need to get something – and almost certainly win – at Newcastle on Monday to fight on until the final day.
Ferguson, whose team lost Nani to a red card, told Sky Sports afterwards: “It’s been a great day for us and we’ve got a big chance.
“Our players have been absolutely fantastic this season. We were down to 10 men today and I said to try to run the clock down, keep possession and be patient in the second half and I’m very pleased because there was a bit of tiredness.”
The Scot had no complaints about Nani’s foolish sending-off for butting Lucas Neill, vowing to “deal with it”.
On Monday’s clash at St James’ Park, Ferguson said: “The way Chelsea have been talking is that it’ll be easy up there – but we know that’s not the case.
“Look at Dean Ashton today. He was a United fan as a kid but scored a goal which could kill our hopes.”
On Ronaldo he added: “Cristiano has had a fantastic season and he develops all the time.
“There was a terrible tackle on him today but he keeps getting up and playing with courage and you’ve got to applaud that.”
Ryan Giggs came on as a substitute to move within one game of equalling Sir Bobby Charlton's revised appearance record of 758.
It means he would break the record if he plays at Wigan and also in the Champions League final, and Ferguson said there was a “good chance, a very good chance” of it happening.
The Welshman himself said: “It would mean more to win the Champions League and the Premier League.
“Personal records are things to look back on when you finish you career.
“Yes, it would be a proud moment if I do it but the main thing now is trophies.”