MANCHESTER, England (AFP) - Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United's success in winning the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan can propel the team towards retaining the English Premier League title.
The European champions added the global crown to their honours list by defeating Ecuador's Liga de Quito in Yokohama last Sunday, with Wayne Rooney netting the winning goal for Ferguson's side.
Having now returned to Old Trafford, however, United face a testing trip to Stoke City on Friday as they bid to close the seven-point gap on current league leaders Liverpool.
But having become world champions in Japan, United manager Ferguson expects the confidence generated by that achievement to boost the club's prospects of winning more trophies in the second half of the season.
"I hope that happens," he told reporters at United's training ground here Wednesday.
"There is no question that winning in Japan has given the club and the players a great boost. It was a great achievement.
"The most important thing is that the team played well, which was surprising really because a lot of the players found that their sleep patterns weren't quite so good over there," the Scot added.
"That proved a bit difficult, but nonetheless, the lads showed good enthusiasm during the games and good concentration, which was the key thing.
"We have come through it well and put in some good performances.
"After the game against Quito, the players had a great time together.
"We were up early the next morning to get away, so not many slept too well, but they had their time together and that was good for them."
During their nine-day stay in Japan, United watched as Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all failed to collect maximum points from their two Premier League games during that period.
And Ferguson admits that the failings of United's rivals gives his side, who have two games in hand on their fellow title contenders, a real chance of claiming top spot in the New Year.
He said: "A similar thing happened when we went to Brazil for the world championship in 2000. While we were away, our title rivals Arsenal and Leeds both failed to get a win.
"I wasn't surprised that Arsenal and Liverpool drew with each other, but I was a bit worried about Chelsea going to Everton, simply because of Everton's record of not having won for 20 games against Chelsea.
"I would obviously rather be top on Christmas Day, but I always wanted to be close to the leaders going into the New Year and we have managed that.
"Teams chasing the title always drop points in March and April, even when you don't expect them to do so, and that will happen again this year.
"But we have nine games coming up in the next month and, fortunately, we have the squad to cope with that."
|Guinea v Mali: Quarter-final berth on offer in Mongomo|
|Thohir: Inter not reliant on European football|
|Bremen land Vestergaard|
|Allegri refuses to rule out Cassano move|
|Mexes handed four-game ban after Lazio dismissal|
|Joyce reveals Valdes´ inspirational team-talk|
|CAF announces AFCON venue switches|
|Alcacer commits future to Valencia|
|Postecoglou calls for Aussie ´energy´|
|Everton confirm Eto´o departure to Sampdoria|
|Pochettino to stick with Vorm despite cup error|
|Barcelona are not favourites against Atletico, says Luis Enrique|
|Allegri wary of Parma backlash in Coppa Italia|
|Zidane urges Real to tie Ancelotti down|
|FIFPro: Transfer system failing football|
|Anderlecht condemn Standard´s Defour banner|
|Australia 2 UAE 0: Socceroos ease into home final|
|Barca overhaul youth system|
|FIFPro demands clubs respect contractual obligations|
|Mahmoud targeting World Cup place with Iraq|
|Fabregas wants Chelsea to show winning mentality|
|Rangers borrow £10m from Ashley´s Sports Direct|
|Lyon face anxious wait over Lacazette|
|Undermanned Lazio recall Perea|
|Ki wants South Korea to prove their superiority|
|Ghana´s Gyan wary of South Africa|
|Mashaba urges South Africa to attack|
|Benitez: Napoli deserved to win|
|Pacos de Ferreira 1 Benfica 0: Leaders fail from the spot|
|Serie A Review: Higuain at the double in controversial Napoli win, Udinese see off Empoli|
|I´m glad Rochdale haven´t made the news - Hughes|
|Getafe 2 Celta Vigo 1: Hosts come from behind for first win in 10|
|Real hit back at media reports over transfer dealings|
|Rochdale 1 Stoke City 4: Joy and angst for Bojan as Premier League side progress|
|Turkish Super Lig Review: Kuyt at the double in Fenerbahce win, Besiktas back on track|
|Senegal v Algeria: Morale is high, insists Gourcuff|
|Cassano leaves beleaguered Parma|
|Copa del Rey Preview: Atleti look to overturn Barca advantage, Espanyol wary|
|Atletico Madrid v Barcelona: Griezmann targets second-leg fightback|
|Sheffield United v Tottenham: Clough expects fired-up Spurs for second leg|
|Cape Verde 0 Zambia 0: Stalemate sends both sides out|
|Democratic Republic of Congo 1 Tunisia 1: Both teams qualify for quarter-finals|
|FA Cup fifth round: Middlesbrough handed Arsenal test|
|South Africa v Ghana: Must-win game for Mashaba´s men|
|Parma v Juventus: Serie A leaders strong favourites to reach semi-finals|
|Van Praag planning to stand for FIFA presidency|
|Inter snap up Brozovic|
|Van Persie unsure of long-term United future|
|Broken metatarsal rules El Shaarawy out for at least six weeks|
|FIFA: No disciplinary proceedings against Real|
|No Plan B if Guardiola goes - Rummenigge|
|Millwall take Hooiveld on loan|
|Chile v United States: Klinsmann has high hopes for young stars|
|Carver to lead Newcastle until end of season|
|Shenaishil taking positives from last-four exit|
|Neymar happy with life at Barca and Messi relationship|
|Lucas Silva ready for life at Real|
|Milan ´always with Inzaghi´ - Menez|
|Rodriguez living the dream at Real|
|Stielike expecting Australia in final|
|Mourinho not dwelling on Bradford defeat|
|Schweinsteiger under no pressure to extend Bayern contract|
|Herd heads to Wigan on loan|
|Inter defensive duo suffer hamstring tears|
|UAE coach Ali eyes Asian Cup final|
|Gattuso dreaming of managing Rangers|
|Fiorentina agree return of Gilardino on loan|
|Sakho hits back at critics|
|South Korea 2 Iraq 0: Kim books sixth Asian Cup final place|
|Sturridge could return against Chelsea|
|Zinnbauer backs Drobny as Hamburg first choice|
|Drogba targeting Chelsea stay|
|Postecoglou confident Australia squad can progress|
|UEFA does not have the courage to run against me - Blatter|
|Foster: Anichebe unplayable|
|Australia v UAE: Japan´s absence a boon for Asian Cup hosts|
|Milan v Lazio: Injury-hit visitors aiming for back-to-back wins|
|Trezeguet confirms retirement|
|No ´major problems´ with Nicolas Frey´s head wound|
|Strootman injury not "serious" - Garcia|
|No Paraguay, USA for retiring Riquelme|
|Saint-Etienne did not try to play football - Blanc|
|Primeira Liga Review: Sporting move within one point of Porto|
|La Liga Review: Parejo downs Sevilla, Resino starts with a point|
|Serie A Review: Juve go seven points clear as Roma draw again|
|Ligue 1 Review: Paris Saint-Germain and Lyon make Marseille pay for slip-up|
|Burkina Faso coach puts AFCON exit down to bad luck|
|Saint-Etienne 0 Paris Saint-Germain 1: Ibrahimovic scores in repeat performance|
|Shenaishil optimistic despite Kasim absence|
|Walcott: Goal has been a long time coming|
|DR Congo v Tunisia: Leekens warns against complacency|
|Congo 2 Burkina Faso 1: Thievy helps send 2013 runners-up crashing out|
|Gabon 0 Equatorial Guinea 2: Balboa and Iban put hosts through|
|McCarthy and Distin on road to recovery|
|Gil has hit the ground running - Lambert|
|Eredivisie Review: Ajax and Feyenoord lose ground after dour draw, Eagles secure big win|
|Wenger confirms Gabriel move is imminent|
|Eto´o presented to Sampdoria fans|
|Cape Verde v Zambia: Victory a must for 2012 winners to avoid elimination|
|Brighton and Hove Albion 2 Arsenal 3: Walcott and Ozil among the goals for holders|
|Mancini upbeat despite ´cruel´ late defeat|
|Pogba revelling in rich vein of form|
|Aston Villa 2 Bournemouth 1: Gil helps under-fire Lambert breathe easy|
|Defour dismissed after Standard Liege banner taunt|
|Allardyce relieved with scrappy West Ham win|
|Sturridge ´happy man´ after return to Liverpool training|
|Inter 0 Torino 1: Moretti ends unbeaten run for top-four hopefuls|
|Juventus 2 Chievo 0: Pogba inspires victory as leaders march on|
|Bristol City 0 West Ham 1: Super sub Sakho sinks City|
|Hughes in talks over new Stoke deal|
|Delph signs new contract|
|Chelsea v Liverpool: Mourinho demands League Cup response|
|Football League Preview: Derby eye top two, Cambridge back to reality|
|Nani not giving up on Old Trafford career|
|Perth Glory 3 Melbourne Victory 3: Leaders stage two-goal late comeback|
|Neymar: Barca have no interest in Real results|
|Milan defender Mexes apologises for red card|
|South Korea v Iraq: Strange lead-up for Shenaishil´s men|
|Lazio´s Djordjevic thanks well-wishers ahead of ankle surgery|
|Iran´s Asian Cup appeal dismissed by AFC|
|Cech urges Chelsea to clean up FA Cup exit ´mess´|
|Henderson: Liverpool are up for the cup|
|Edimar wants ´normal´ ban for Real star Ronaldo|
|Pellegrini defends misfiring City strikers|
|Australia ready for UAE - Sainsbury|
|Blanc takes positives from past|
|Inzaghi promises ´something different´ at Milan|
|Mexes sorry for seeing red|
|La Liga Review: Wins for top three|
|Vitoria Guimaraes 2 Gil Vicente 2: Last-gasp penalty salvages point for hosts|