Fergie backs Villa credentials

United boss feels Midlands side can make the top four

Ferguson: Backing for Villa

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Sir Alex Ferguson feels Aston Villa have the credentials to finish in the Premier League's top four this season.

Villa followed up last week's 2-0 win at Arsenal by battling for a 0-0 draw at home to reigning champions Manchester United on Saturday.

The result lifted Villa into the UEFA Champions League places after Arsenal were soundly beaten 3-0 at Manchester City.

And United boss Ferguson sees no reason why his Villa counterpart Martin O'Neill can not take his team into the top four permanently.

Much improved

"We had good chances but Villa were really aggressive and determined and really set out to make it difficult for us, playing one up front with Ashley Young joining in as a wide player coming in and then going back out wide," said Ferguson.

"We handled that well but this game proved that Aston Villa are a much improved side.

"There is no doubt that Villa have got a lot more consistency about them at present and I definitely think they really could be in the top four.

"Their delivery was good and the boy (Martin) Laursen comes forward and is very good in the air. We had to withstand that challenge from them but, apart from that, I feel we were the better team and we created the chances in the game."

United had not lost at Villa Park in the Premier League since 1995, and had also won 14 in a row against the Midlands club, but veteran keeper Edwin van der Sar insists a trip to the Second City is never an easy proposition.

Van der Sar said: "You can look at the record against Villa and all the media are talking about it but Villa Park is still a hard place to come. It doesn't matter how many times you win in a row.

"They are doing very well this year and they proved they have the quality and the ability to play football and to make it difficult for teams.

"We tried our best and created a couple of chances but not enough to get the win."