Ferguson tells Red Devils to give their best in final push to reclaim league title

  • Other Sport
  • Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003

LONDON: Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has warned his players there must be no let-up as they mount their final push to reclaim the Premier League title from Arsenal. 

A 2-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday leaves Ferguson's men with a five-point lead over Arsenal and the knowledge that two more wins – at home to Charlton on Saturday and away to Everton on the final day of the season – will see them safely home. 

After squandering a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with Bolton on Saturday, Arsenal currently do not look like they will force United to take maximum points, particularly given the absence of key defender Sol Campbell through suspension and doubts over whether skipper Patrick Vieira will play again this season. 

Ferguson insisted however that his side would take nothing for granted. 

“It's now a question of winning our games,” Ferguson said. “That's exactly the way I'm looking at it. 

“We're not going to rest. You don't get rest in this game. To win championships, you need the resilience to go the whole way to the line.” 

United skipper Roy Keane echoed Ferguson's sentiments, although he made it clear that he believes United only have to hold their nerve to ensure the Premier League trophy returns to Old Trafford. 

“The belief we have in the squad is fantastic but we know there is a long way to go yet,” Keane said. 

“It's important not to panic. We have experience and have been down this road before. Experience is very important at this stage of the season.” 

The Irish midfielder added: “Arsenal are a top team, they deserve a lot of credit. We have a very difficult match against Charlton at Old Trafford on Saturday. 

“We must stay focused and hopefully we will get a win.”  

For over an hour it looked as though United were going to be frustrated by the brilliance of Kasey Keller in the Tottenham goal.  

But Paul Scholes finally broke the deadlock in the 69th minute and Ruud van Nistelrooy notched his 40th goal of the season in stoppage time to ensure United took full advantage of Arsenal's 2-2 draw at Bolton on Saturday.  

“When you miss some of the chances we had in the first half you wonder what sort of day it is going to be,” United boss Alex Ferguson admitted.  

“There were more of the same in the second half but we finally got it (the first goal) through Paul.  

“We said at half-time that perseverance is necessary but even at 0-0 you sensed they weren't going to lose the match.”  

Ferguson had been worried that his players would have suffered a come-down after their Champions League thriller against Real Madrid on Wednesday. 

“You are worried because European football is such an emotional experience,” the Scot said. 

Ferguson confirmed he had dropped French World Cup winner Fabien Barthez and brought in Roy Carroll in goal in a bid to freshen up his side. 

“I decided on Roy Carroll and he did really well, I am very pleased for him. Fabien needed a break.” 

After a frustrating first hour in which United were repeatedly thwarted by the inspired goalkeeping of Keller, Scholes finally broke the deadlock with a 69th-minute header, his 20th of the season. 

Van Nistelrooy, who might easily have scored four goals but for the brilliance of the Spurs keeper, finally got his reward in stoppage time, slotting home his 40th strike of the season after being picked out in the box by Quinton Fortune's cross.  

United had picked up where they left off in their Champions League thriller against Real Madrid on Wednesday with van Nistelrooy drawing a fine save from Keller in the first minute after running on to a huge clearance from Roy Carroll, who replaced under-pressure Frenchman Fabien Barthez in the starting line-up.  

That was the cue for a period of some scintillating passing football from United which culminated in another close call for the Spurs defence.  

A sweeping move from the edge of the United area ended with Giggs' low cross being prodded just the wrong side of the upright by van Nistelrooy.  

There was more frustration to follow for the Dutchman.  

A reflex stop in the 30th minute was quickly followed by the former American international tipping over a header that was bound for the top corner after a stunningly precise cross from David Beckham.  

Van Nistelrooy was thwarted for a fourth time six minutes before the break after a superb turn on the edge of the box left him with only the goalkeeper to beat.  

The striker opted to try and dribble round the goalkeeper, who threw himself to the ground to snuff out the chance.  

Then just as it looked as if United might be set for a fruitless afternoon, Scholes popped up to score.  

Beckham, restored to the starting line-up after scoring twice as a substitute against Real, started the move with an angled ball to Scholes on the edge of the area.  

The midfielder's flicked header found Giggs on the left of the box and his clipped cross left Scholes with a simple close-range finish.  

The drama did not end there however. Gus Poyet came within inches of heading an equaliser for Spurs and Keller produced another fine stop to keep out a Ryan Giggs volley before van Nistelrooy finally forced his way on to the scoresheet. – AFP 

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