NEWCASTLE, England, April 20 – Sir Alex Ferguson believes Manchester United are one game closer to regaining the Premier League title after their goalless stalemate at Newcastle United – but warned of the threat posed by champions Chelsea.
The Champions League semi-finalists missed the chance to move nine points clear of second-placed Arsenal by being held to a 0-0 on Tyneside on Tuesday.
But, with the Gunners having also been held during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool, Ferguson believes that, with just five games remaining, time is running out for Arsene Wenger’s side who face Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night.
"I’m confident we’ll be fine," said the Scot in the wake of the Newcastle deadlock.
"We’re in a better position than we were on Saturday. There’s one game less and we‘re in the same position."
Ferguson, though, is wary of Carlo Ancelotti’s Blues, who now have a trio of winnable home games against Birmingham City, West Ham United and Spurs.
The third-placed West Londoners are some nine points behind United but have a game to spare and a potentially decisive trip to Old Trafford still to come on May 8.
Ferguson added: "We also have to look at Chelsea; they’ve got three home games in a row now. Obviously we’ve got two very important games coming up – the games against Arsenal away and Chelsea at home."
Ferguson served the last of his five-game touchline ban at St.James’ Park and will be back in the dugout when they entertain Everton on Saturday lunchtime.
The United boss joked: "I’ll be glad to be back but I don’t think my staff will."
Ferguson’s temperament would have been tested during injury time against The Magpies when Javier Hernandez, his Mexican striker, was booked by referee Lee Probert for an apparent dive inside the penalty box.
"It was a clear penalty and it was an insult to book him," said the 69-year-old, whose side were beaten 1-0 by rivals Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.
"The referee had a good game but that lets him down. There was definite contact."
He added: "Newcastle did terrifically well in the first 20 minutes, but I was sure we would improve after that. We had great passing and movement but did not trouble the goalkeeper.
"But I was really pleased with the energy of our players because Wembley can take it out of you. They will thrive on the challenge now."
The Red Devils travel to Schalke next Tuesday for the first leg of their Champions League last-four tie.
That is followed by the trip to Arsenal on May 1 before the return leg against the Germans and then that all-important visit of Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is convinced that Ferguson’s men will lift the title.
"I think Man United will win it (the league)," he said.
"They are the best team we have played in terms of quality and the options available to them. Going into the final stretch I can’t see past them winning it."