Sir Alex Ferguson challenges Man Utd to end the year on top

Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged his Manchester United side to end the year top of the Premier League table as they look to retain the title.

United's 2-0 win against QPR moved them to the top of the league for the first time since October, albeit briefly.

"The important thing is to be there on New Year's Day," said the United manager.

"If you're involved right at the top part then you know the second half of the season, we'll relish that."

Their time at the top lasted just four hours before Manchester City leapt back above them with a 1-0 win over Arsenal.

Just two points separate City and United going into an important Christmas period.

United face Fulham at Craven Cottage on Wednesday before hosting Wigan on Boxing Day and Blackburn Rovers on New Year's Eve, while Manchester City host Stoke, also on Wednesday, before travelling to West Brom on Boxing Day and Sunderland on New Year's Day.

Ferguson added: "We have been a bit sparse in terms of goals scored in the last few weeks but we won 4-1 last Saturday and a 2-0 today and I think everyone would say we should have scored more.

"Their goalkeeper made two fantastic saves which has obviously kept them in the game but we played some good football."

Having watched his side outplayed by United, QPR boss Neil Warnock predicted the most open title race for years.

"I think they have all got opportunities, and that includes Tottenham and Arsenal. I wouldn't write anybody off because I don't think there is a lot between them.

"Manchester City are as good anyone and you have seen what a good squad United have got and I would never write Chelsea off either.

"I don't think you can see the bookies making a price. It is going to be the closest for many years."

Wayne Rooney netted for United with less than a minute on the clock, to open the scoring and make it three goals in two games and 12 for the season for him.

"As I said last week if we can get Wayne on one of his goalscoring bursts that he can do, he can go three, four, five, six or seven games scoring like he did a couple of years ago," added Ferguson.

"Last year he got around the 20 mark, Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] got us 20-odd, [Dimitar] Berbatov got us 20-odd and you need that off your goalscorers."

Warnock also praised Rooney, saying: "I thought Rooney was different class. You don't realise how good he is until you see him live. He hardly gave a ball away."