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."
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