MANCHESTER, February 22 – Patrice Evra has warned Manchester United ahead of Tuesday's clash with West Ham that they are in danger of letting mental tiredness ruin their bid to land a fourth successive Premier League title.Sir Alex Ferguson’s side looked lethargic in their shock 3-1 defeat at Everton on Saturday, which allowed rivals Chelsea to open up a four point lead at the top of the table.
It was United’s sixth league defeat of the season and what made it more surprising was that it came hot on the heels of their highly impressive Champions League victory against AC Milan in the San Siro.
France international Evra knows Ferguson’s men can’t afford any more slip-ups if they are to haul in Chelsea, least of all against lowly West Ham at Old Trafford.
But the defender admits Ferguson’s squad are suffering from fatigue at just the wrong time and might have lost some of the belief that they can overcome Carlo Ancelotti’s leaders.
"Everton was very disappointing and we’re very upset. I would like to give an excuse, to say we’re very tired after the amazing night in San Siro," Evra said.
"But I don’t want to give that excuse because I think we didn’t believe we could win.
"Anyway, yes we are tired. Myself, every player, a lot of players have been tired but I think on mentality we lost that game because before the game everyone was just talking about, ‘Oh I feel tired, my legs,’ you know?
"I don’t think we were focused on the game and this is why I don’t want to give that excuse because if you don’t have the right spirit – and I don’t think we had the spirit of a winner – that’s why we lost that game.
"It’s about not believing. We didn’t believe enough. We believe, yes, every time we play in the Manchester United shirt we want to win the game and we believe until the last second, but I think not enough at Everton.
"This is why I’m very frustrated. It’s not easy. It’s a tough place to go and a bad time to play as well, you know, but I think it was just about having a little more belief in the victory and we would have had the better result.
"Manchester United was not the best Manchester United. You can find a lot of excuses to say we were tired but I am very disappointed about all the positions. "Myself, every one. Sometimes it happens.
"It’s not damaging because a lot of teams, big teams, go to Everton and don’t win. This is why it was the target before the game. To say, ‘If we can win there, we can win the title’ We didn’t do that.
"So now we have West Ham and have to make sure we get three points before the League Cup final. But it’s not damaging, it just makes it more difficult than we thought to win the league.
"It is not easy, though, because we only have three days to recover but it’s Manchester United and that’s why we play football. If we have a good win I’ll be pleased but for now we need to recover and beat West Ham on Tuesday."
To make matters worse for Ferguson, West Ham will arrive at Old Trafford high on confidence following a thumping win over Hull which lifted them clear of the relegation zone.
However, Hammers manager Gianfranco Zola knows a kick in teeth is never far away in the Premier League, especially against a United side smarting from defeat.
Zola said: "The last two results have been big for us, not only in terms of points and position in the table, but in terms of confidence for the whole team.
"But we have some massive games coming up, starting with Tuesday and we have to stay focused. It is not over yet.
"We are looking better but need to keep a focus. This is a team that when it plays with confidence, can be a surprise."