MANCHESTER // Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United are routinely welcomed on to the Old Trafford turf as champions of England, Europe and the world. They can add another title to the list now: champions of Manchester. With the conspicuous ease that has characterised their recent victories, United completed a derby double, something City attained last season, at the start of what may prove another auspicious week. It could culminate in the Premier League being decided against Arsenal on Saturday. As Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez settled the local hostilities, United displaced Liverpool at the top of the table. Rafa Benitez's afternoon as a City supporter can't have been especially enjoyable. In truth, City rarely threatened to do him a favour. Mark Hughes had warned Ronaldo's unconventional technique for taking free kicks could damage his knees. Perhaps so, but the Portuguese retains his ability to inflict greater pain on his opponents. "He has a talent at such things," said Ferguson. Nevertheless, it was only the occasion that made it among the best of Ronaldo's season. City queried the award of the free-kick, which took a slight deflection off Nigel de Jong and entered the net at less velocity than some of his strikes. However, this was revenge, Ronaldo style, for his controversial red card at the City of Manchester Stadium in November and a 26th goal of the season. Ronaldo was irritated by his second-half removal, but his manager wasn't worried. "He wanted to stay on," added Ferguson. "He's in great form, but I've got to look at the big picture. He put in an incredible performance at Arsenal." He was less forthcoming on the subject of the other goalscorer's future. "I'm not getting into that," he said, when asked about Tevez. Yet it was hard to ignore the striker. Tevez struck the woodwork three times, once with a curling shot and once with a last-minute header. His second shot, hit with real venom, struck the inside of the upright on its way into the net. "It was an exceptional strike," said Hughes and Tevez, hands cupped to his ears, knew what was coming next. The inevitable chorus of "Fergie, sign him up" followed, and, though it was his first Premier League goal of the campaign at Old Trafford, the case is compelling. His goal was made possible by a sublime piece of play from Dimitar Berbatov. Plucking Darren Fletcher's pass out of the sky, he slid the ball into the Argentine's path. Indeed, it was an afternoon of dextrous touches and delightful turns from Berbatov, finding space where there appeared none and linking up play beautifully. If Tevez has Ferguson to convince, Berbatov has to persuade the critics who deem him an expensive waste of money. Both proved a point yesterday, though it may not be enough for the Argentine. City had a wonderful chance to cut the deficit but Robinho, shooting wide after an exquisite pass from Elano, spurned it. "There wasn't much of an end product," admitted Hughes. "We didn't ask enough questions of them."
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