Wolverhampton - Sir Alex Ferguson said goal difference could decide the destiny of this season's Premier League title race after seeing his Manchester United side win 5-0 away to 10-man Wolves.
Victory extended reigning champions United's lead at the top of the table over second-placed Manchester City to four points and, importantly, it ate into their rivals' goal difference advantage.
Ferguson is determined to silence United's "noisy neighbours" after his team produced a perfect response from their Europa League exit with a commanding victory over crisis club Wolves that dropped the Molineux club to the bottom of the table - on goal difference.
Javier Hernandez struck twice while Jonny Evans, Antonio Valencia and Danny Welbeck also scored in a routine romp that only served to pile on the problems for Terry Connor, the interim Wolves manager charged with the arduous task of saving the club from dropping into the Championship.
Ferguson, while far from satisfied with United's display, said: "The number of goals was very important and it could be significant by the end of season.
"We've got the goal difference deficit with Manchester City down by five to three and we hope we can catch them up.
"There are 10 (league) games left now and it's just a matter of cutting off the games one by one until we end up with no games left and hopefully we achieve what we want to achieve.
"We expect it to go the wire, put it that way. We always hope for the best and fear for the worst."
Ferguson added: "The performance was OK, I didn't think it was anything special. It wasn't great and the scoreline makes it looks like it was comprehensive but our finishing was good.
"As we always find here, Wolves always make it difficult for you. I mean, I think we've taken our goals well, it has to be said, but it was an OK performance."
United, knocked out of the Europa League by Spanish club Athletic Bilbao, return to action a week on Monday with a home game against Fulham, while Wolves now look on course for relegation.
This was their third successive defeat under Connor, formerly assistant to the sacked Mick McCarthy.
And with 12 goals conceded in those games, Wolves chairman Steve Morgan may yet review the managerial situation before Saturday's trip to Norwich City.
Connor is under increasing pressure after this insipid performance, with his problems only growing after the dismissal of Ronald Zubar for two bookable offences when United were still just 1-0 up.
"Everybody will be writing us off after this but my message to the players is to keep believing," Connor said.
"We've got Norwich and Bolton next and we're still on the same number of points as QPR and Wigan so we're still in there fighting.
"We've just got to make sure we eke out enough points to make sure we're above that dotted line by the end of the season."