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Ferguson salutes courageous Ronaldo

SoccerNews in English Premier League 4 May 2008

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Sir Alex Ferguson praised Cristiano Ronaldo's courage as Manchester United put one hand on the Premier League trophy after a 4-1 victory over West Ham.

Ronaldo continued his stunning season by scoring twice against the Hammers at Old Trafford on Saturday to take his goal tally to 40 and keep Ferguson's team on course for a Champions League and Premier League double.

United, who face Chelsea in the Champions League final in Moscow later this month, will win the title if they beat Wigan in the last game of the season next Sunday.

Ferguson insisted their success was due in large part to the way Ronaldo refuses to be intimidated by opponents who kick him. The United manager was particularly upset by a challenge on Ronaldo by West Ham left-back George McCartney.

“It was a terrible tackle from behind,” added Ferguson. “But he showed his courage. The boy is just improving all the time. To score 40 goals in one season is a fantastic contribution.”

Ferguson was jubilant afterwards but that did not stop the United manager from hitting out at Nani.

The 21-year-old Portugal international was shown a straight red card by referee Mike Riley for head butting West Ham's Australian captain Lucas Neill during an ugly 37th minute spat.

Nani put his Champions League final place in jeopardy and will miss the Wigan match as well as United's first two games of next season.

“It was a great performance by the team but it was marred by real immaturity by Nani,” said Ferguson afterwards.

“There are no complaints from me because the referee had no option but to send him off. I've seen the incident and I'll deal with it.”

Yet Nani's red card failed to take the gloss off what was a highly impressive United performance.

Ronaldo's double and a spectacular 30-yard finish by Carlos Tevez against his former club put United 3-0 ahead inside the opening half an hour.

Dean Ashton reduced the deficit with an equally impressive overhead kick before Michael Carrick sealed an emphatic United victory in the second half.

Ferguson went on the pitch at the final whistle and thanked the fans for their support during a brief address.

“Enjoy yourself in Moscow and hopefully next week in Moscow,” he said.

Ferguson acknowledged his team have a “big chance” of wrapping up the title.

Although Victory at Wigan next Sunday will confirm United as champions, the coronation may come even earlier as Chelsea now need to win at Newcastle on Monday to fight on until the final day.

“It's been a great day for us and we've got a big chance,” said Ferguson. “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.”

Wayne Rooney watched from the stands but Ferguson believes the England striker, who is struggling with a hernia injury, could be fit in time to play at Wigan and in the Champions League final

“Wayne is improving all the time,” said Ferguson. “He was with us today but we felt it was just too early. We will do our best to get him fit for next week.”

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