Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson challenges side to remain top of the Premier League come January 4

Scot also had praise for Sunderland loanee Danny Welbeck
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that he wants to be top of the Premier League by January 4.

Ferguson takes United into the festive period top of the Premier League, and aims to ensure that remains the case as the season heads into 2011.

"My aim is to try and be top by January 4," Ferguson revealed to reporters.

"By that time, the top of the league will have taken shape.

"Maybe, because of the weather, it is difficult to think everyone will have four games. But if we do, and we are top, we will have done well."

But before that Ferguson's men take on Sunderland at Old Trafford, and he admitted he is wary of the threat posed by the side when they meet on Sunday.

The Scot hailed Sunderland's recent win at Chelsea as "the perfect performance".

Ferguson added: "In all the time I have been at Manchester United, I could probably point to six perfect performances.

"Steve will look at that in the same way. It was one of the stand-out performances of the season.

"They were absolutely brilliant and could have won by six or seven.

"It is a reminder that we are dealing with a team that has that kind of ability and drive at the moment. We are in for a particularly hard game."

Ferguson has also praised Danny Welbeck's form for Sunderland this season.

Welbeck is on loan at the Stadium of Light from United and will have to watch his teammates from the sidelines when the two clubs meet on Sunday, due to the terms of his loan agreement.

For United that could be just as well because he has scored five goals in the last six games for the north east side, who are riding high in the Premier League.

And Welbeck's form has been exactly what Ferguson was looking for when he decided to allow him to gain top-flight experience.

"Exactly the reason I put Danny on loan was to play regular football," Ferguson told United's official website.

“In the last couple of years around the first team, he’s never played more than a couple of games in a row. Not since his youth team days has he played more than four games in a row.

“One of Danny’s problems in the last couple of years was that he was growing so big and quickly, he was weak in certain parts of his legs, particularly the quadriceps and knees, and this caused a lot of problems for the boy, strength-wise.

“You look at him now and you see the growth, his body has now filled out.

"He’s a big lad, he’s powerful, he’s handling the physical part quite easily now.

"I think he’s been one of Sunderland’s best players.”

The striker's form means that Sunderland manager — and former Manchester United skipper — Steve Bruce is keen on securing Welbeck on a permanent basis, but Ferguson has said the player will be back at Old Trafford next season.

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