Wayne Rooney believes Manchester United's hard-fought win over title rivals Arsenal was a game they simply couldn't afford to lose, and hoped last season's champions could claim top spot in the league by the New Year.
His whipped corner was superbly headed home by former Gunner Robin van Persie to secure a vital three points at Old Trafford that moved United up to fifth - five points behind Arsenal - and Man of the Match Rooney expressed his relief at stopping the league leaders stretching 11 points clear of his team.
He told reporters: "We knew we had to win today at all costs. We defended really well, and that's the hardest we've been to break down this season.
"We knew we couldn't afford to lose today, we couldn't let Arsenal get 11 points ahead of us."
The early pacesetters from north London came into the game having won 14 of their last 15 away games, but Van Persie's 27th-minute header was the difference as his former side failed to threaten David de Gea in United's goal.
And England striker Rooney hailed a great weekend for his side after Newcastle defeated Spurs at White Hart Lane before north-east rivals Sunderland saw off Manchester City on Wearside, both by 1-0 score-lines.
"It's a massive lift, a great weekend for us ahead of the international break. The other results today and yesterday gave us a boost and we are right back in it now," the England international continued.
The 28-year-old has earned plaudits from all over, including manager David Moyes, for his inspirational displays that have dragged United up the league after a poor start that saw them lose three of their first six games.
His performance yesterday was again superb, and the former Everton striker has now set his sights on United being top by the turn of the year.
Rooney added: "Our aim is to be top by New Year, or thereabouts."
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