Sir Alex Ferguson was naturally enthralled by the first reaction to the siege mentality he stirred at Old Trafford this week, although the most encouraging sign for Manchester United on Wednesday night was that their belligerence was confined strictly to the pitch.
There have been too many unfulfilled promises proclaimed at Old Trafford this season and too many unforeseen stumbles for the dismantling of Wigan to be deemed a great leap forward for Ferguson's inconsistent team, and so it was therefore a blessed relief that his players did not use the occasion of their most emphatic victory of the season to declare they had righted the wrongs of their campaign.
Wednesday saw a return of the style and, as Ferguson identified, the swagger that had been absent since the first month of the season to United's play, but there was also an honest realisation that the nine-point deficit on Chelsea will remain insurmountable unless it fires their performances every week.
Rio Ferdinand, who had more cause than most to declare that salvation was at hand having ended his three-year wait for a United goal, admitted: "The win was fantastic for confidence, but we've got to maintain that now. It's no good doing it in one game and then slipping up in the next one. We've got to continue to play good football."
The defender, sounding like a man who had listened to Roy Keane's infamous criticism on MUTV of his own inconsistent displays, added: "When we see the fixtures, we think every game is winnable. We genuinely believe we can win every game we play. What we have to do now is to put that into practice."
Ferguson yesterday vowed he would make a fight of the title race. While the victory briefly lifted some of the pressure piled on Ferguson's shoulders in the aftermath of United's stunning European exit, he accepts he is reliant on Chelsea's winning streak coming to an abrupt end to offer his side the sniff of a chance. But he is convinced they will eventually get one and Chelsea will not be allowed to just stroll away with the championship as they did last season.
"We are dependent on Chelsea dropping points, so to a certain extent it is out of our hands," Ferguson said. "But we must strive to make sure we are ready and waiting for any slip.
"We need to go on a charge but with the kind of attitude we have shown, we won't go far wrong."Reuse content