Adversity brought out mental strength, says Ferguson

 

Sir Alex Ferguson understands the criticism that has been heaped on Manchester United but feels the massive setbacks they have suffered this term have only emphasised their strength of character.

United have failed to win just four of their 17 Premier League games this season and despite Manchester City's flying start remain just two points adrift of their neighbours heading into the Christmas programme.

Yet their campaign as a whole has been pock-marked by disastrous defeats.

The 6-1 home defeat by City in October stands out, with the loss to Basle not far behind given it cost United their place in the Champions League.

In addition, United were beaten on home soil by Crystal Palace in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.

It has given ample opportunity for United's critics to attack.

Yet Ferguson feels it has also brought the best out of his players.

"If you lose a derby game 6-1, get knocked out by a Championship team in the quarter-final of the Carling Cup, and lose to Basle, who are not a power in Europe, you can understand the criticism," he said.

"But in terms of the nature of the players we have and the kind of club we are, we have shown the resilience and determination to do something about it each time it has happened.

"That says a lot about the character of the team.

"We lose games in normal seasons. This season we have lost games that have been dramatic and a bit more emphatic in the sense of the impact it had on our chances of winning trophies.

"These were bad results for us but the character of the team has rescued us each time."

United have responded to the extent of collecting 19 points from a possible 21 since that City defeat, the latest win coming at Fulham on Wednesday.

Twenty-four hours later, Tottenham and Chelsea fought out a draw at White Hart Lane that did neither side much good in their attempts to overhaul the Manchester duo at the top of the Premier League.

Yet Ferguson, who has consistently suggested it is only those within a couple of points of the leadership on New Year's Day who can expect to battle it out for the biggest prize, is adopting a cautious attitude.

"At this point in time everyone thinks it is going to be a one-two for the city," he said.

"But things change. You only need to go back over the years to see how dramatic our league can be.

"Lose a game in this league and all the rest get a pick up and start chasing harder."

With a Boxing Day encounter with Wigan to prepare for, Ferguson has opted not to get embroiled in a row with Liverpool over their reaction to the eight-match ban and £40,000 fine handed out to Luis Suarez for using insulting words towards Patrice Evra, with a reference to the player's colour.

"I have nothing to say about it," he said, when asked about the T-shirts worn by Liverpool players in support of Suarez prior to Wednesday's draw with Wigan at the DW Stadium.

Ferguson is on far more comfortable territory talking about his own team, who will have Phil Jones available to face Roberto Martinez's men after X-rays showed he only suffered bruising to his cheekbone during an aerial clash with Clint Dempsey in midweek.

"We feared the worst," he said.

"At the time it looked like a real sore one.

"He had lost his vision for that period when he came back on the field. Thankfully it is good news.

"He has got a bit of swelling in his jaw but he should be okay for Monday."

Ashley Young has been ruled out with a knee injury though, so veteran wide-man Ryan Giggs is set to have some involvement.

The 38-year-old extended his unique record of scoring in every Premier League season at Fulham, and Ferguson finds it remarkable how Giggs has manages to carry on producing the same high level performances over such a long time.

"He was unbelievable on Wednesday," said the United boss.

"He controlled the midfield. I saw Danny Murphy bellowing to the forwards to come back because he was finding it hard.

"We know he is incredible. It is an established fact.

"It is an unusual sight we are seeing in the modern-day game, a lad at 38 performing at that level."

PA

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