North End secure point at Dons

Sir Alex Ferguson insists Shinji Kagawa will only get better for

Manchester United following his hat-trick heroics in the 4-0 win

over Norwich on Saturday.

Kagawa struck just before the break at Old Trafford then added

two more in the second half to inspire the win before Wayne Rooney

added a long-range strike in the final minute.

The victory sees United stretch their lead at the top of the

Premier League to 15 points and Ferguson was full of praise for the

Japanese international, who arrived at the club from Borussia

Dortmund last summer.

He told

Sky Sports of the forward, who was out with injury earlier

in the season: “He’s a good finisher, the lad. His second and third

goals were terrific and he showed great intelligence for the first

one and composure.

“He’s gradually getting his form back because he missed that

period of football in October and November which set him back a

little bit.

“He’s going to be a good player. Next year he’ll be far, far

better too.”

Ferguson was also pleased with Rooney, who was making his first

start following a sinus problem after appearing as a substitute in

the win over QPR last week.

The boss added: “He needed a full game, he came on a sub last

week. Scoring a goal is always important for strikers and it’ll

help his confidence.”

Ferguson was relieved his players all appeared to come through

the encounter unscathed, with the second leg of their UEFA

Champions League tie against Real Madrid looming in midweek.

There were some close calls when Robin van Persie appeared to

hurt himself stretching to set up the opening goal, while Patrice

Evra and Danny Welbeck were victims of physical challenges from the

visitors.

“There was a few hefty tackles out there today,” Ferguson added.

“It was surprising; normally the pitch is too big for that kind of

football. Everyone is ok I think.”

Spirit

After seeing United stretch their lead to 15 points, Ferguson

says there is no need for his side to be looking over their

shoulders for nearest rivals Manchester City.

“I think the best way for us to handle it is to win our games,”

he added. “Win our next game and then our next game – that’s the

way to do it.

“We don’t need to look back. Look at our team at the moment,

they’re playing with a great spirit and there’s a great atmosphere

in the dressing room that’s helping us.

“No matter which games are coming up, we’re relishing it.”

Hayhurst, 19, scored from a tight angle in the seventh minute to

cancel out Adam Chicksen’s early opener for the Dons, who have now

drawn four successive games.

Chicksen put the Dons ahead after only two minutes when he

curled the ball first time into the top corner from Ryan Lowe’s

cut-back, following a mistake by Bailey Wright.

But Hayhurst equalised for Preston just five minutes later,

sneaking in at the far post to fire the ball high into the net from

Lee Holmes’ low cross.

Stuart Beavon then had a fierce strike parried by Ian McLoughlin

as the Lilywhites seized control, while Lowe had two close-range

shots blocked on the goalline for the Dons.

Preston created the better chances in a low-key second half,

with Nicky Wroe blasting narrowly over the crossbar from the edge

of the box and Hayhurst seeing his fierce free-kick pushed over by

McLoughlin.

The introduction of substitute Dean Bowditch sparked the Dons

into life in the closing stages but his 25-yard drive flew just

wide and Chris Lines’ curling free-kick shaved the post as their

winless run continued.