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Fergie claims United are 'the best' after Blues draw

Sir Alex Ferguson watched Manchester United slug out a draw with Barclays Premiership title rivals Chelsea, then claimed the Red Devils had proved they were the best team in the country.

The 1-1 stalemate allowed United to maintain their three point advantage at the top, although there was a palpable sense of disappointment the hosts had not managed to retain the lead Louis Saha gave them with his expert first-half finish.

Still, Ferguson insisted there were still plenty of positive to take out of the contest, not least that United proved they were in the title hunt for the long haul.

'We proved we can compete and that when we reach the high levels of performance we are the best team in the country at the moment,' he said.

'The test for us now is to step forward from this because winning championships is about beating other teams. If we want to win the title, consistency is the name of the game.'

Ferguson agreed with the assessment of opposite number Jose Mourinho that the result was a better one for Chelsea than it was for the hosts, particularly as, in the Scot's eyes, United were in control for long periods.

'It is disappointing to draw because we were in a winning position and allowed them to get an equaliser,' he said.

'They had a lot of possession but didn't create a chance. We did well on the counter-attack and had two magnificent opportunities to get a second.

'But the longer the game goes on everyone starts to get a bit nervous. Even so, they weren't causing us any bother until the goal and I thought Edwin van der Sar had it covered until Louis headed it in. In games like these, you need a little break at times - and we didn't get it.'

Van der Sar might well have kept out Ricardo Carvalho's bullet header had it not been for Saha's intervention but it would be harsh to blame the Frenchman given the way he had banished the misery of his last-gasp penalty miss at Celtic last week.

'Louis has been like a caged animal in training,' revealed Ferguson.

'He was bursting to play and had been taking penalty after penalty, which shows his eagerness to make up for what happened at Celtic Park.

'I never had a worry about him. He is a mature player and his pace, strength and movement are vital to the way we play.'

Saha did limp off late on though, as did Cristiano Ronaldo, who went down under a heavy challenge from Ashley Cole.

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Park Ji-sung already sidelined and Alan Smith yet to prove his fitness, Ferguson can hardly afford to lose any more forwards.

However, with Everton due at Old Trafford on Wednesday, he has little time to get the pair fit.

'We will have to wait and see,' he said.

'We will do our best to get them fit for Wednesday. We have to go again. That is what champions are made of.'

Man of the match Michael Carrick was downhearted after seeing his side give up the chance to go six points clear at the top of the Barclays Premiership.

'We feel a bit frustrated. We feel we should have won the game and it was a sloppy set piece (from which Carvalho scored).

'To concede like that is a bit disappointing,' Carrick added.

'We played well and were happy with the first half, but they came out and made a change but didn't create chances.'