Alex Ferguson has urged Manchester United to look forward rather than back in the final stages of the Premiership campaign.
The Red Devils struggled for long periods against Charlton at Old Trafford but eventually recorded a 2-0 win over the relegation-threatened Londoners to maintain a six-point cushion over Chelsea at the top of the table.
With only 11 games to go, it is a handy cushion to have, and United could inflict major damage if they gain maximum reward from the two matches they play - at Fulham and Liverpool – before Chelsea are in action again.
And Ferguson has made it clear his team should not start looking over the shoulders and fear the damage Chelsea may cause.
“We are playing well and with a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Sometimes in these situations, there is a tendency to look over your shoulder and concentrate on the team that is chasing. I prefer to look forward because we have some really promising games coming up.
“We have an FA Cup tie against Reading next week, which should be terrific and that is all we should be concentrating it on now.”
Ferguson admitted he was surprised by Charlton’s enterprising approach, although he claimed his side should have taken full advantage of the pressure his team applied after Park Ji-Sung had nodded them into a first-half lead.
In the end, United had to survive a major scare when Gary Neville nodded Dennis Rommedahl’s free-kick narrowly wide of his own goal before Wayne Rooney provided Darren Fletcher with the easiest of finishes to wrap up the win.
“It wasn’t the greatest goal in the world but I would have taken it any time,” admitted Ferguson.
“Their free-kick was a worry because it just reminds you that at 1-0 up, the opposition can get a goal in a second.”
After stressing the value of giving all his squad some playing time recently, it was particularly pleasing for Ferguson that Park and Fletcher should get themselves on the scoresheet after standing in for injured duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Michael Carrick.
“We need to give everyone some miles on the clock because you never know when you might need them,” he said.
Sheffield United’s win against Tottenham means that, with the exception of Wigan, second-bottom Charlton are now 10 points adrift of anyone outside the relegation zone.
However, Addicks chief Alan Pardew is still in optimistic mood, not least because star duo Darren Bent and Luke Young came through training sessions this morning and should play a full part in the club’s trip to Spain next week.
“They both came through training today, which is good news and the break should help in terms of both of them being fit for our next match,” he said.
The next match could hardly be more critical as it pits Charlton against West Ham in a match neither side can afford to lose.
“We have only picked up 20 points so far this season but now we are going to have to improve,” added Pardew.
“We need to go on a run similar to the one Portsmouth went on last season and get another 20 points from our remaining games. That has to be our goal.
“Maybe at the start of the season, we could have settled for a draw if we had got ourselves into a good position in an away game. Now, we have to go for it.”