LONDON, January 17- Sir Alex Ferguson believes 10-man Manchester United's defiant 0-0 draw against Tottenham proves they have the mental strength to hold their nerve and win the Premier League title race.
Ferguson’s side returned to the top of the table, on goal difference ahead of Manchester City, after extending their unbeaten league run to 21 games despite Rafael da Silva’s second half red card at White Hart Lane.
United had to play the last 16 minutes down to 10 men but the leaders’ back-four, superbly marshalled by Nemanja Vidic, held firm to grind out a hard-fought point.
While United once again lacked any real fluency going forward, Ferguson took heart from the way his players dug in to frustrate one of the most attacking teams in the top-flight.
With games in hand at Chelsea and Blackpool to come later in the season, the United boss believes his team are in pole position to regain the title if they keep displaying that kind of composure under pressure.
"As I said some weeks back it could be a real thrilling end to the season. All five teams have chances and Tottenham are not out of it. It is about winning games and keeping your nerve," Ferguson said.
"We have got to win those two games in hand. We have to go to Chelsea on March 1 which will be a massive game. We have to go to Blackpool, who are in great form at the moment.
"Defensively we kept our nerve here. They never really troubled us and considering the goals they have scored and the performances they have shown at home I think we take really good credit from that.
"It’s a decent point although we were a bit careless with the ball, particularly before half-time and in periods of the second half."
Rafael’s red card and his subsequent foul-mouthed tirade at referee Mike Dean could have been the catalyst for United’s first league defeat since last season.
The Brazilian right-back was slightly fortunate only to be booked for a wild lunge on Wilson Palacios in the first half, but he was unlucky to earn a second yellow card after making minimal contact with Benoit Assou-Ekotto in the 74th minute.
Ferguson made it clear he was unhappy with Dean’s decision but stopped short of lambasting the official.
"I do not need to discuss that. You can see it for yourself. I’m not even going to discuss the referee," Ferguson added.
Even Spurs boss Harry Redknapp agreed Rafael was unlucky to see red.
"It was a harsh sending off. He has not stuck his leg out. He was running and has just clipped his heels. What can you do about that?" Redknapp said.
Fifth-placed Spurs had marginally the better chances and went close when Peter Crouch got in front of Rio Ferdinand and met the ball with a flicked volley but his effort flashed just wide from close-range.
Rafael van der Vaart also threatened when he headed into the side-netting from Gareth Bale’s cross.
Spurs had only one real chance to steal the points after Rafael’s dismissal but Van der Vaart’s curled his shot over.
"I never felt we would get beat. It was just a question if we could get a goal," Redknapp said. "We got in a few good positions but just couldn’t get the final ball."
Although Spurs have now failed to beat United in their last 24 meetings, Redknapp remains convinced the leaders will slip up before the end of the season.
"It would be a miracle if Alex got them through the season unbeaten. I’m not knocking them, they are above us, but other teams have improved," Redknapp said.
"They are disciplined at the back and hard to break down but I can’t sit here and say they will walk away with the championship.
"We have got closer to them, yet they are still top of the pile, which is full credit to them."