Sir Alex ferguson thanked goalkeeper David de Gea for making the saves that allowed Manchester United to move five points clear in the Premier League title race.

'David de Gea was outstanding,' says Sir Alex Ferguson

Although United dominated possession against Blackburn at Ewood Park, the visitors struggled to create any clear openings other than an early Javier Hernandez effort that came back off the post.

Instead, it was Blackburn peppering their opponents’ goal, only to be denied by the man who gifted them their shock win at Old Trafford earlier in the season.

De Gea denied Junior Hoilett, Marcus Olsson and Grant Hanley before the break, then repelled Morten Gamst Pedersen, who also had a goal disallowed in the second half.

And once Rio Ferdinand had made a superb tackle on Yakubu just as the Nigerian was about to turn home from close range, it offered United the chance to wrap up victory through goals from Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young in the final 10 minutes.

“David de Gea made three fantastic saves to keep us in the game,” said Ferguson.

“Although we had all the possession, we couldn’t create the openings to get in front.

“Javier Hernandez hit the post and we had a penalty kick claim – I didn’t think it was – so David has done his bit for the team.

“He has really grown in stature the boy. He was outstanding.”

Yet De Gea was shaded for the man-of-the-match prize by Valencia, who is quickly turning into United’s player of the season despite missing vast chunks of it.

Valencia was clearly the visitors’ most dangerous attacking outlet and it was his goal that finally broke Blackburn, even if there was some doubt as to whether it was a cross or a shot as the ball flashed into the far corner.

“They are saying was it a cross or a shot. It doesn’t matter,” said Ferguson.

“He hit it with such power it was always going to be a problem for the defenders.

“It was a fantastic finish. I thought he was the best player on the pitch.”

Young wrapped up the points five minutes from time, ensuring United took maximum advantage of Manchester City’s unexpected failure to beat Sunderland at the weekend.

Indeed, the timing of Easter Sunday’s fixtures mean the Red Devils will be eight points ahead of City by the time the Blues face Arsenal at the Emirates should they beat QPR at Old Trafford.

Not that Ferguson is looking at the situation like that, preferring instead to focus on his own side, who after Rangers then tackle Wigan and Aston Villa.

“They are all big games now,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if it is next Sunday, next Wednesday, the Sunday after that, they are all big ones.

“The players are prepared for that. We will fight right to the end in all the games for the right to win the matches.”

Having predicted a draw, City manger Roberto Mancini cannot have grumbled at Blackburn’s efforts, which just brought a sense of frustration for manager Steve Kean, whose side have dropped back into the bottom three on goal difference after being six points clear of the drop zone just 10 days ago.

“We expected to get something out of this game,” said Kean.

“We played very well for the majority of the game, their goalkeeper has made a number of good saves and Rio Ferdinand has made one of his best tackles for a number of seasons.

“We have asked questions of Manchester United and if we can play for the full 90 minutes like we did for 80, we will get enough points to stay away from trouble.”