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Sun 3 Feb 2008 07:56 AM

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'Spirit' will keep United on title track

Manchester United salvaged a point with a dramatic late equaliser against Tottenham.

Sir Alex Ferguson's ability to put a positive spin on any setback was underlined once again as he insisted that Manchester United had salvaged a point with their dramatic late equaliser against Tottenham rather than dropped two.

United appeared to be spinning to their fourth defeat of the season with seconds remaining at White Hart Lane but, not for the first time under Ferguson, there was a sting in the tail.

A right-sided corner was swung over by Nani and, after Carlos Tevez and Michael Dawson both scrambled to connect at the near post, the ball zipped past Radek Cerny for the most unlikely of equalisers.

The Argentine striker's jubilant celebrations suggested he applied the final touch and, while Ferguson admitted the strike had been "fortuitous", the Scot believes his side's tenacity will provide a firm foundation for their title tilt, despite slipping to two points adrift of Arsenal.

"We never stopped going which is great credit to the players so I believe that we deserved the point," he said. "Some people are saying we have dropped two points but that could be a massive point for us."

"We had a lot of opportunities and we dominated in the final period of the match. We gambled because we knew we had to get a result so all the players went up and it paid off eventually."

"There are always some clubs who are on an upward curve and Tottenham are one of those, there's no question about that. Juande Ramos has done a fantastic job and his side worked their socks off.

They've had six games in 18 days and that's to their great credit.

"From now until the end of the season it will be nip and tuck. Arsenal are two points ahead of us at the moment but there are a lot of big games to come. You can't say who is going to win the league at this stage because it's just too early. It's a hard league."

Ferguson may have been satisfied with his afternoon's work in north London but he was less content with the performance of referee Mark Clattenburg.

United face an automatic fine from the Football Association after the Tyne and Wear official booked seven of their players - including Edwin van der Sar and Cristiano Ronaldo for dissent and Wayne Rooney for diving - and Ferguson was predictably furious.

"For Manchester United, it's not right," he said. "There is something wrong when we get seven bookings. Up until half-time, I thought the whole game looked like it was going to go to pieces as a football spectacle."

"Something has to be wrong when we get that number of bookings. Has he been fair to both teams? No, because in the second half he booked Rooney for diving and then moments later Huddlestone dived for them. He had already been booked, but he did nothing."

In truth, it was Tottenham who had more cause for annoyance.

Until United began turning the screw in the final 20 minutes, they were firmly in control and only wasteful finishing prevented them extending their lead, established in the 20th minute when Dimitar Berbatov bundled in from close range.

Nevertheless, the very fact the home faithful departed muttering in frustration highlights the transformation achieved by Ramos since his appointment as manager in October.

"To play against United, who are certainly at the top of their game in Europe and in England, is very difficult," Ramos said. "We are satisfied with the progress we have made but we are going to continue to try and improve."

"The team still has a lot of possibilities this season with the cups coming up and games like this are good for us because it shows that we can compete against the best sides in the league."

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