Villa can be a top four side - Ferguson

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Sir Alex Ferguson has paid handsome tribute to Aston Villa boss Martin O'Neill and claimed the Irishman could lead his club into the top four this season.

O'Neill has grasped the challenge provided by owner Randy Lerner at Villa Park with both hands, assembling an impressive squad packed with young English talent.

After a brief stutter, victory at Arsenal last week took the Midlands giants level on points with the Gunners and Ferguson said: "They can finish in the top four."

He added: "They are level with Arsenal and not far behind us, which is a good position to be in. It will be interesting because it is such a competitive league.

"Without question, Martin O'Neill is one of the best managers in the game.

"The only way you can judge managers is how they prove themselves over a period. And the job he has done at Leicester, Celtic and now Aston Villa makes him an obvious top manager."

The work O'Neill has done is also having an impact at international level.

Gabriel Agbonlahor and Gareth Barry were in the side that defeated Germany in Berlin on Wednesday, with Ashley Young and Curtis Davies muscling their way on to the bench.

Ferguson can see the positive effects as O'Neill sticks with the same side on a regular basis.

"He has built up a squad over the last couple of years that allows him consistent team selection," said Ferguson. "He doesn't make many changes and sticks by his format all the time."

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Leicester City
Gabriel Agbonlahor
Gareth Barry
Ashley Young
Curtis Davies
Aston Villa

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