'It was nothing to do with nerves,' says Ferguson

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson said it was time for Manchester United to "show our mettle" following yesterday's defeat at West Ham United which reduced their lead at the top of the Premiership to just two points. "It's the hallmark of champions," Ferguson said. "We've proved that many times in the past and this team is good enough to do that." Ferguson added that he believed his team "didn't deserve to lose".

However, mindful of the impact Alan Curbishley's arrival has had on West Ham, he admitted: "Obviously we've come here at a time when there's a sudden surge in energy and enthusiasm, and the fans were great. They were behind them. If they had played like that every week they wouldn't be in this position."

Ferguson dismissed suggestions that the pressure was getting to his players. "I don't think it was anything to do with nerves today," he stated. "They've played with the same confidence. These things happen in football and we have to just gather ourselves and get on another charge.

"There are important games to go and the Christmas period is always fraught with difficulties in terms of squad rotation and when you rest players. But I'm happy with our team."

Curbishley, meanwhile, hailed West Ham's victory as a "terrific result", made all the more vital because of the wins earned by other teams fighting to avoid relegation at the weekend.

"Considering yesterday's results with both Blackburn and Sheffield United winning away from home, this was a result that allowed us to stay in there," he said. "Coming into today's game and against a top opposition, then we were up against it. It was a massive game. It's been a perfect day."

Curbishley reiterated his claim that the players now faced a fresh start. "I know there has been a lot of criticism levelled at them and perhaps people are looking at it and it's easy to pick on someone," he said of the criticism faced by the team captain Nigel Reo-Coker, in particular.

Curbishley also said that he did not believe that the result would be decisive in the title race. "Alex would be the first to tell you it's a tough season and there are some unexpected results," he said. "But there are not too many and it was an unexpected result today. You don't want the Premiership to be a one-horse race, you want it to be contested." It certainly will be