Defensive continuity the key – Fergie

Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United are a different proposition heading into the second half of the season as injuries start to ease.

United welcomed back a trio of key defenders in Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown and Rafael da Silva at Hull on Sunday and immediately looked stronger than the side humbled by Fulham last week.

The champions still needed to battle hard to shake off a determined Hull but their eventual 3-1 win left them well placed behind leaders Chelsea midway through their Premier League campaign.

Ferguson told MUTV: "It was a bonus having two centre-backs back – it made a heck of a difference to us.

"Hopefully in the next few weeks Jonny Evans will be back, as for Rio Ferdinand we will have to wait and see.

"But I’d think when the European campaign gets going again we should have a strong squad together.

"Rafa and Fabio [da Silva] were both back too and it makes a difference to us.

"You’d expect us to get some continuity defensively soon and that will make a difference."

United have already lost five games this season but such has been the competitive nature of the league, none of their rivals have been able to take full advantage. Ferguson added: "There have been some strange results in the first half of the season – I said in a recent conference I thought that 41 points had been dropped by the recognised top four but I think it’s about 65.

"It’s unusual and maybe good for the league in the sense no-one is winning games easily, everyone is battling for the points.

"The Premier League is the only place to be so you can understand the way Hull battled."

United’s victory owed much to an extraordinary performance from Wayne Rooney. The England striker opened the scoring and then set up United’s two clinching goals after committing the mistake that led to Hull’s penalty equaliser. United went back ahead when Andy Dawson turned a Rooney cross into his own net and Dimitar Berbatov tapped in their third after a superb pass from his strike partner.

The in-form Rooney has now scored six goals in his last six games. Berbatov believes United are now well placed to launch yet another title charge. The Bulgarian said: "We are in a great position. There are a lot of games before the end of the season but we have great players.

"There are a lot of games this time of year and it’s a been a bit of a difficult time with the injuries but the players are coming back now.

"The boss knows what he’s doing and I’m sure at the end of the season we will be on top."

United are next in action on Wednesday as Wigan visit Old Trafford. The three-day turnaround is more generous than that of other sides and should give the likes of Brown and Vidic the chance to recover.

Brown had only been given an outside chance of featuring at Hull after a hamstring injury but the 30-year-old felt his return went well. He said: "I thought it was a good performance and a good win.

"Hull made it tough for us but we did well in the end.

"I had no feelings from my hamstring so the 12 days I had out (did the job).

"Myself, Nemanja and Rafael were back and hopefully soon Jonny, Gary Neville and Rio will be back so we can be back to a full-strength squad.

"Wayne was devastated when he played their player in for their penalty but he keeps on going. He didn’t mean to do it, it was one of those things.

"But if anything it made him work harder. He’s got such passion for the game and his performance I thought was fantastic. "It’s been a funny old season. Teams are losing games to everyone.

"I think now we’ve got to start winning and keep the run going. We’re in a confident mood now."

Ryan Giggs played 78 minutes at Hull on his return from a hamstring injury but fellow veteran Paul Scholes, who made a bad error at Fulham, did not even make the bench.