Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has singled out striker Ruud van Nistelrooy as the key ingredient in his side’s title success.

Leading his side’s late surge to the title, the Dutch striker scored 14 goals in United’s last nine games to take his tally for the season to 43 (3 short of the club’s all-time record of 46 set by Denis Law) and improve his strike rate to 79 goals from 100 games for the club.

“I think Ruud van Nistelrooy’s form has without question been the deciding factor,” Ferguson told the Manchester United website on Monday.

“When a centre-forward like that scores the number of goals in the important games that he has, it has to be the difference between the two teams.

“I knew he was going to become a great player. But I didn’t know quite how good he was going to become, I must say that, because he has surprised me almost every week.”

Ferguson also stated that Arsenal’s capitulation will have been hard for his rivals to bear, but he expected a renewed challenge from Arsen Wenger’s men next season.

“When anyone loses a title, particularly one that was in their (Arsenal’s) grasp for a long time, I think it will be a big disappointment to them,” Ferguson added.

“But the battle’s over. We expect them to be challengers next year and we look forward to that because I think from my own personal situation, I feel that my decision to not retire is the best decision I’ve probably made.”