Sir Alex Ferguson claimed Manchester United's steely will-to-win could make the difference in the title race after his side's 1-0 victory at Manchester City.
United played the final 22 minutes down to 10 men at Eastlands after Cristiano Ronaldo's red card for deliberate handball, but the champions held firm to keep the pressure on Chelsea and Liverpool.
After dominating for long periods and finally taking the lead through Wayne Rooney's 42nd minute strike, United had to endure a nervous finale and Ferguson was impressed with the way they keep their focus.
“We needed three points. We are behind Liverpool and Chelsea. We are chasing them and we needed to win the game to get ourselves near them,” Ferguson said.
“We have had a significant result and I hope it makes a difference.
“Our focus was good. In some away games this season our second-half performance has been disappointing. We threw the game away at Liverpool and threw three points away at Everton.
“Last week our game dropped against Aston Villa and I think that was down to focus and our focus was great.”
Even Ferguson, notoriously capable of lambasting officials for perceived slights against his team, couldn't work himself up over Howard Webb's decision to dismiss Ronaldo in the 68th minute.
Ronaldo, who had been booked nine minutes earlier for clattering into Shaun Wright-Phillips, picked-up his second yellow card of the game when he strangely handled a corner from Rooney.
Webb was left with no choice but to dismiss Ronaldo, who had earlier clapped the Yorkshire official sarcastically after being shown his first caution.
Ferguson insisted Ronaldo's dismissal had been an innocent mistake, but he refused to criticise Webb.
“I have seen the incident again on television and he's tried to protect his face from the ball hitting it,” Ferguson said.
“He thought he had heard a whistle. But I'm not going to go into referees or the decision.
“Sometimes you have to overcome such adversity and that is what we did. I thought we were excellent, particularly in the first half.
“Manchester City came back at us in the second half but we showed great character and resilience, especially after Cristiano's sending off. I don't think Manchester City caused us too many problems.”
City manager Mark Hughes insisted Webb had no choice but to send off Ronaldo and also revealed Robinho had been forced to have a painkilling injection before kick off to enable him to play.
Hughes said: “He hasn't trained all week so it was no surprise that he looked a little off the pace. He had to have an injection so he could play.
“I think we showed Manchester United too much respect in the first half. We lacked the energy has our play has had in recent weeks and this might be a consequence of us having had a hard week.
“United were just that little bit quicker to the ball. We had to force the issue in the second half but I think the sending off didn't help us as much as people thought it would. United got two banks of four across the pitch and they were very hard to break down.
“Good teams find a way to win and that's what United did. “Why didn't he (Ronaldo) head it? It could be viewed as a soft sending off but I don't think the referee had a choice.
“United have players with big experience of winning trophies. My players don't have this quality yet but it is something we are working towards and we are heading in the right direction.
“We have come off second best today but we can take heart from the second half performance and it's no disgrace to lose to a side of Manchester United's quality.”
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