Van Persie hopes goal drought has ended
SUNDERLAND, United Kingdom (AFP) –
Manchester United’s Robin van Persie must wait to find out if his Premier League goal drought ended in his side’s 1-0 win at Sunderland on Saturday.
The goal has been credited to Sunderland defender Titus Bramble, who deflected van Persie’s shot past his own goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet.
But van Persie, who had not scored in his seven previous games for United, insists it should be awarded to him.
“Of course it was my goal,” said the Dutchman. “There is no question about that. I enjoyed the goal because it is always good to score. But this was about getting all three points and we did that.”
United manager Alex Ferguson steered clear of the controversy, which will be decided by the Dubious Goals Committee this week, but he was in no doubt about the value of van Persie’s contribution to the goal.
Ferguson said: “It was a wicked hit by him. It was a fantastic shot. I don’t know if it was going in, but it was certainly a difficult ball for any keeper to handle.
“Scoring for Holland in their two internationals last week helped him. Goalscorers are like that.
“When they don’t score for two or three games, they wonder when they are going to get one. But when they get one, they get back on stream.”
United go into their next league game against derby rivals Manchester City with Ferguson targeting four more victories to clinch the title.
“We have to win four games now, I think,” said Ferguson. “But it’s important to focus on our next league match, which is City at home.”
United go into the derby having dropped only four points in 18 games since their last defeat in the league in November.
And they have gone more than 10 hours without conceding a goal.
“Our concentration is much better,” said Ferguson. “We were losing goals early in the season, but we have central defenders back and we are selecting two from five, which makes it much easier for us.
“We have won 25 of our first 30 games and I think that’s a record, which is all down to the efforts of the players.”
Van Persie said: “We are very pleased with the result. We knew it would be tough because Sunderland work hard and play with lots of long balls, so we had to battle and that’s what we did.
“We fought hard for a well deserved win. We all knew what we had to do, and we did it well.
“This is a team full of winners. Everyone knows what he has to do and the result was never in doubt, even though it was only 1-0. I was always confident we would win it.”
The victory was sweet for United, who have not forgotten how Sunderland fans taunted them when they learned the title had been won by Manchester City while they were on the Stadium of Light pitch last season.
“Sunderland made it more difficult in the second half because they are fighting for their lives, but we kept together,” said United midfielder Michael Carrick.
“We are getting closer to the title. That’s one game less and we’ve won again. We’ve still got to go again, though. We have a game on Monday (against Chelsea in the FA Cup), play Manchester City next and will keep rolling on.”
Sunderland have now gone eight games without a win and are sliding deeper into relegation trouble.
“We were tentative in the first half and we didn’t settle into the game until half-time,” said manager Martin O’Neill.
“But we made a big effort in the second half and I was very pleased with them eventually, but we have to create more clear-cut chances.
“The goal was a double deflection and that’s all that separated the two teams.
“There is a determination among the players that we can do it. And I’m as buoyant as I’ve always been.”