Arsenal have 'massive chance' to take title, says Man Utd's Ferguson

( AFP ) - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes Arsenal now have a "massive chance" to take the Old Trafford club's Premier League title as it is the Londoners, and not his side, who will start the New Year as league leaders.

Arsenal are two points clear of United at the summit of English football following their 4-1 win away to Everton on Saturday came just a matter of hours after United had surprisingly lost 2-1 at West Ham.

"I always feel if you reach New Year on top you have a massive chance," veteran Scottish manager Ferguson said.

"We still have a great chance but obviously it was disappointing to lose the way we did."

However, United were without ill striker Wayne Rooney against the Hammers and, for Ferguson, the major part of the season is only just starting.

"It's a great team we've got and we just have to galvanise ourselves and get the reply you always look for after a bad performance.

"We need to go on a long run now because we are coming to the crucial part of the season. In many ways the season starts mushrooming.

"There are league games, Champions League football and FA Cup ties. It's a congested fixture list and you have to respond and play football properly."

The New Year - which starts the day after Ferguson's 66th birthday - begins for United with a home game against Birmingham, managed by Alex McLeish, one of the Old Trafford supremo's former players at Aberdeen.

And Ferguson was confident that both Rooney and fellow illness victim Michael Carrick would be fit to face the Blues.

"Wayne and Michael should be okay, they were both suffering from a virus. Michael was taken ill during the night, the doctor attended to him on Saturday morning and there was no way he could have taken part."

Ferguson added: " Wayne was ruled out on Friday. There's little bits going down at this time of year, quite a few clubs have got it I suppose. But hopefully they will be ready for Tuesday."

United took the lead at Upton Park through Cristiano Ronaldo. But the Portugal winger then saw a chance to put United 2-0 up squandered when he shot wide from the penalty spot.

The Hammers then recorded their straight win over Ferguson's men thanks to headed goals at set-pieces from substitute Anton Ferdinand, brother of Manchester United and England centre-back Rio, and Matthew Upson.

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