Rio Ferdinand insists Manchester United's rapid rise up the Premier League has not taken him by surprise.

It is just a calendar month since United were 2-0 down at Aston Villa at the end of a week that had started with a narrow escape against Wolves and a tame derby draw with Manchester City.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side escaped with a 2-2 draw at Villa Park and have since won their last three league matches to move two points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand.

"I do believe it," Ferdinand said. "When I look around the changing room I see a fantastic bunch of players. I never doubt them or what they are capable of."

He added: "If we concentrate and are focused on doing the things we are asked, we are difficult to play against."

Whilst at Villa they required fortitude and a refusal to accept defeat, the victory against Arsenal on Monday night was more about defensive discipline.

The balance of play may have favoured Arsenal but clear cut chances mostly fell United's way.

"I have always maintained it is not just about defending as a back four and a goalkeeper," said Ferdinand, who scooped the man-of-the-match prize. "We score together and we concede together. If we are defending right from the front we are a hard team to play against.

"The game plan was get in their faces and put pressure on them.

"We couldn't afford to give a team like Arsenal time. If you do that they will hurt you because they have quality players all over the park.

"I am glad to say we didn't."

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Rio Ferdinand