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Ferguson rues United's setback at Spurs

sports Updated: Dec 14, 2008 12:04 IST
Ferguson rues United's setback at Spurs

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United had wasted a golden opportunity to reinvigorate their English Premier League title challenge after they were held to a goalless draw by Tottenham Hotspur.

United could have moved to within four points of leaders Liverpool following their surprise draw at home to Hull City, but Ferguson's team suffered their own frustrations in London on Saturday.

This stalemate means United remain six points adrift of top spot, but that gap could stretch if Chelsea defeat West Ham on Sunday and will almost certainly be significantly extended by the time the English and European champions return from the Club World Cup in Japan.

United fly to Japan on Sunday and so will miss next weekend's round of Premier League matches as they attempt to become the first British side to win the FIFA tournament in its revised format.

Ferguson admitted he dearly wanted to slash his team's points deficit before departing but a combination of wasteful finishing and inspired goalkeepering from Spurs' Heurelho Gomes ensured they were denied a victory.

"It's always frustrating when you see your main rivals like Arsenal and Liverpool drop points and you also drop points yourselves," the long-serving United manager said.

"Spurs worked very hard to contain us. It's not the worst result in the world, but the two points we dropped would have made a big difference in the league," Ferguson added.

"It was a similar situation a few weeks ago when all of the top sides drew and didn't even score a goal. There were three draws today (Arsenal were held 1-1 away to Middlesbrough) and hopefully Chelsea will draw as well.

"It's not a case of letting Liverpool off the hook - there's a long way to go. We want to narrow the gap by the new year anyway and if we do that, we have a chance."

Ferguson admitted the trip to Japan was "a handicap" for his side as they aim to breathe new life into their title defence.

But the Scot refused to use their enforced Premier League hiatus as an excuse and instead urged his players to create history by returning from Asia with the trophy.

"We're delighted to be going to Japan as representatives of England and we want to win it.

"No British side has won it in this format so it would be a big thing. It is a handicap to be going there but we're still delighted to be involved."

Even so, memories of this frustrating encounter will still be gnawing at Ferguson as he boards United's flight from London's Heathrow Airport.

United were far from their best at White Hart Lane, but they created enough in a one-sided second half to warrant all thee points.

They were, however, denied late on by two spectacular saves from Gomes, who is now a symbol of the Harry Redknapp revival in north London.

Barely a month ago, Gomes had the reputation as the sort of goalkeeper who makes strikers smack their lips in anticipation. A string of wretched errors early in the season had cost Tottenham crucial points and shredded the reputation he had forged at PSV Eindhoven.

But the Brazilian is a new man under Redknapp and his superb stops here - one from Park Ji-Sung and the other from Ryan Giggs's free-kick - were little short of magnificent.

"It's just a matter of confidence with him," Redknapp said. "He has belief now. We went out to Holland a couple of weeks ago and I spoke to the goalkeeping coach at PSV.

"He said: 'Don't worry about the goalkeeper, he's world class.' I must admit, at the time, I assumed he had been drinking!," the former Portsmouth manager joked.

"But ever since he has done very well and there's no disputing his record at PSV was top class.

"There's more of a spring in his step now than there used to be and that's all down to having more confidence."