BLACKBURN, April 12 – Sir Alex Ferguson admits Manchester United's hopes of securing a record-breaking fourth successive Premier League title are slipping away after their goalless draw at Blackburn.
Sunday’s result left United one point behind leaders Chelsea, having played a game more than the Blues, who will open up a four-point gap if they beat Bolton at home on Tuesday.
Ferguson’s side travel to neighbours Manchester City next weekend and have just four matches to overhaul Chelsea, forcing their manager to all but concede the title.
It has been a miserable week for Ferguson and United, who bowed out of the Champions League against Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
To make matters worse England captain Rio Ferdinand picked up a groin strain and is a doubt for the trip to Eastlands, while Ryan Giggs is battling a hamstring problem and Wayne Rooney is undergoing intensive treatment on his troublesome ankle.
Ferguson said: "The title is slipping away when you don’t get a result in a game like this. We are now a point behind Chelsea and they have a game in hand which would take it to four points. It’s a big gap.
"We created plenty of chances and had enough opportunities to take them and we should have done better.
"It was a disappointing result, there is no doubt about that. This is a fantastic result for Chelsea. They have a home game against Bolton on Tuesday which they will be fancied to win, of course.
"We have a derby game against Manchester City next week. It’s a derby game that takes away the business of chasing the League. It is a different kind of game. It will be entertaining in terms of the pride of the supporters.
"We were a little unlucky with that injury to Rio Ferdinand with ten minutes to go. That left us virtually down to ten men. We also had John O’Shea getting injured and Ryan Giggs picking up a hamstring injury in the first half."
There were few chances for either side in a lacklustre encounter, but the few that were created fell to United.
Antonio Valencia wasted a golden opportunity when he ran onto Dimitar Berbatov’s pass and shot straight at Rovers keeper Paul Robinson. Then Berbatov failed to beat Robinson from close range in the closing stages.
Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce was delighted with the way his side frustrated the champions and his good friend Ferguson.
He said: "The defensive performance as a team was outstanding.
"This home record is looking magnificent now. We’ve had all the big teams here and they’ve not managed to beat us. It just shows how much we’ve grown in stature.
"I thought Manchester United would tire after their exploits in the Champions League. I thought they would push on because they had to go for the win and this would leave some gaps for us.
"They had some half chances, but no clear-cut ones. The basis of any successful team is clean sheets. Chances haven’t been created regularly and we’ve not had the skill to convert them, so we’ve had to rely heavily on clean sheets.
"That’s 12 now for the season. It shows we’ve come a long way. A good bit of damage has been done to United’s chances now. There’s no doubt, listening to Sir Alex before this and him saying that they had to win every game.
"We’ve managed to get a draw which has knocked their chances. They will hope Chelsea slip up and they can win all four. It’s not over for them, but it will be difficult."