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."
|Anderlecht ´perfect´ for Defour, says Van Holsbeeck|
|Watford appoint Sannino|
|Sakho feels ´lucky´ to play with Suarez|
|Lippi: Too many teams competing in Club World Cup|
|Moyes ´told Welbeck to learn from Rooney´|
|I would kill myself over match-fixing, says Gattuso|
|Hughes dismisses calls for Januzaj protection|
|Aguero ´could miss up to two months´|
|Guardiola lauds Ballon d´Or nominee Ribery|
|Liverpool open Suarez contract talks|
|Copa del Rey Wrap: Barcelona, Levante cruise through|
|A-League Preview: Derby date beckons for winless Heart|
|Pearson upbeat despite Leicester defeat|
|Poyet urges Sunderland to build on Chelsea win|
|Mourinho rues missed chances|
|Pellegrini proud of professional Manchester City|
|Bayern on another level, says Beckenbauer|
|League Cup: Sunderland 2 Chelsea 1 (aet)|
|League Cup: Leicester City 1 Manchester City 3|
|FIFA Club World Cup: Guangzhou Evergrande 0 Bayern Munich 3|
|Zenit and Olympiacos punished with partial stadium closures|
|Sherwood wants positive reaction|
|Ancelotti expected La Liga title fight|
|Moffat charged over betting allegations|
|Wilson appointed at Barnsley|
|Wilshere charged by FA|
|Gattuso determined to clear his name|
|Moyes slams sacking culture|
|Mackay refuses to resign despite owner criticism|
|Redknapp reluctant to take Taarabt back|
|Amat pleased with development|
|Hughes optimistic of League Cup progression|
|Perez: No bids for Di Maria|
|FIFPro demand transfer system overhaul|
|Edwards sacked by Perth Glory|
|Allardyce not fearing the sack|
|Howson commits to Norwich|
|Tevez resigned to Argentina snub|
|SFA uphold Butcher´s one-match ban|
|Zapata rules out United switch|
|European Ombudsman calls for action on Spanish tax complaint|
|Albrighton eyes new Villa deal|
|Bale to miss Copa del Rey clash with ´small injury´|
|Pardew will bide his time in January|
|Kreuzer confident of Hamburg improvement|
|Van der Sar: Moyes can turn United around|
|Maradona backs Ronaldo for Ballon d´Or|
|Tottenham warned off Klinsmann|
|Costa Rica Primera Division: Alajuelense 0 Herediano 0|
|Lyon wary of Chornomorets Odesa|
|Guardiola talks up Lippi, Evergrande|
|Chile Primera Division Wrap: Chile, Deportes Iquique reach final|
|Garcia laments defensive mistakes|
|La Liga: Real Valladolid 3 Celta Vigo 0|
|Allegri pleased with Milan character|
|Primeira Liga Wrap: Pacos remain bottom, Estoril beat Gil Vicente|
|Suarez: Too early for title talk|
|Serie A: Milan 2 Roma 2|
|Mackay told Cardiff will not spend ´a single penny´ in January|
|Super Lig: Trabzonspor 2 Bursaspor 2|
|League Cup Preview: Tottenham v West Ham|
|Whitecaps appoint Robinson as head coach|
|Mikel, Luiz expecting difficult Galatasaray encounters|
|Sherwood, Ferdinand, Ramsey take temporary charge of Tottenham|
|Kovac ´shocked´ by Simunic sanction|
|FIFA Club World Cup Preview: Raja Casablanca v Atletico Mineiro|
|Betis, Sevilla expecting tough ties|
|League Cup to introduce goalline technology|
|Simunic gets 10-match ban|
|Zola resigns from Watford post|
|League Cup Preview: Stoke City v Manchester United|
|Valencia fire Djukic|
|Nedved anticipating tough Trabzonspor tie|
|Benitez wary of Swansea threat|
|Drogba relishing Chelsea reunion|
|Swansea deserve Napoli tie - Laudrup|
|Atletico relishing Milan tie|
|Winning group was vital, says Manchester United secretary|
|Tymoshchuk talks up Zenit chances|
|Rolfes relishing PSG challenge|
|Poyet unsure on permanent Ki deal|
|Arsenal ´toughest team´ Bayern could have drawn - Boateng|
|Ancelotti warns of Schalke threat|
|Miles: Arsenal paid the price for second place|
|Pellegrini undaunted by Barca draw|
|Keller eager for Real test|
|Gandini content with Atletico draw|
|Aguero to miss ´at least a month´|
|Begiristain optimistic of Manchester City progression|
|Dortmund chief calls for repeat performance against Zenit|
|Deulofeu out for ´up to five weeks´|
|Juve and Fiorentina face potential meeting|
|Juve face Trabzonspor, Napoli handed Swansea tie|
|Juventus drawn against Trabzonspor in Europa League|
|Swansea and Hull handed FA charge|
|Garcia wary ahead of Milan challenge|
|Holders Bayern draw Arsenal in Champions League|
|Allardyce in talks with striker|
|Dortmund handed Zenit test|
|Atletico drawn against Milan|
|United paired with Olympiacos|
|Barcelona to face Manchester City|
|Tottenham part company with Villas-Boas|
|Lille have nothing to lose in Paris, says Girard|
|Hughes happy with Wilson displays|
|Fletcher: I am back for good|
|Suarez a ´dream´ player, says Wenger|
|Ribery eyeing treble repeat|
|Paulinho appeal likely|
|Martinez keen for Barkley to stay grounded|
|´Wonderful´ Flanagan hailed by Rodgers|
|Mazzarri slams referee after Napoli loss|
|Anigo unworried by gap to Lille|
|Simeone: Tough to match Barca´s results|
|Neuer eyes Club World Cup title|
|Conte hails ´incredible´ Juventus|
|Hyypia laments missed chances|
|Liga del Futbol Profesional Boliviano Wrap: Title battle still alive|
|Colombia Primera A: Atletico Nacional 2 Deportivo Cali 0 (2-0 agg)|
|Liga MX: America 1 Leon 3 (1-5 agg)|
|Venezuela Primera Division Wrap: Mineros de Guayana win title|
|Uruguay Primera Division Wrap: Danubio crowned champions|
|Argentina Primera Division Wrap: San Lorenzo clinch title|