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Berbatov's late goal clinches Man United's win

MANCHESTER United seized top spot in the Premier League for the first time this season at Bolton as a late winner from Dimitar Berbatov secured the defending champions' seventh 1-0 win of this campaign.

But the 17-time title winners left it late to topple leader Liverpool, with Berbatov not producing the decisive header until the 90th minute to breach a resolute Bolton defense.

"We know someone from our team can create a bit of magic or one of the defenders will lose their man," captain Gary Neville said. "The more tired the opposition gets, the more difficult it is for them to stay with our players.

"At this club you never think you're out of the match -- you always know you'll get another chance. That's been the motto down the years."

Confusion in the Bolton defense allowed Carlos Tevez to collect the ball, force his way forward and whip in the cross that the Bulgaria striker -- left unmarked by the centerbacks in front of goal -- sent past Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Tevez was about to be replaced by manager Alex Ferguson when he floated in the precision ball.

The Argentina striker's loan deal expires at the end of the season and he has been struggling for regular action.

"Carlos Tevez did absolutely brilliantly down the inside right channel," captain Gary Neville said. "He got into those areas all day, particularly in the first half and we kept playing it into him. He was very dangerous for us."

Manchester United leads Liverpool atop the standings by just a point, with Chelsea a further point adrift.

"We're experienced enough to know that nothing's won in January," Neville said. "We're top of the league now but we can be knocked off."

That could happen as soon tomorrow.

Rafa Benitez's side can return to the summit when it plays Everton, but will have played a game more than United, as have Chelsea. The Blues recovered to beat Stoke 2-1 yesterday.

Even without defenders Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown and Patrice Evra, United matched Chelsea's record of 10 consecutive games without conceding a goal.

Until Berbatov's strike, the Red Devils lacked the cutting edge they displayed against Chelsea last weekend and had endured a frustrating afternoon.

The Bolton goalkeeper keeping them at bay by repeatedly saving fierce strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo, the newly crowned FIFA world player of the year.

As Tevez and Ronaldo were thwarted in the closing minutes, Ferguson's anxiety was increasing -- until Berbatov pounced just as a draw looked inevitable.

"It was looking as if we would get something and it would be 0-0," Bolton manager Gary Megson said. "But we made a really poor decision defensively for the goal.

"It wasn't a fantastic goal for Manchester United, but was an important goal. We were caught by a little bit of quality at times. They usually come good in the second half of the season."


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