Redknapp influence has been startling – Ferguson

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the common sense approach of Tottenham counterpart Harry Redknapp as he prepares to face Spurs as genuine title rivals for the first time in his 26-year reign tomorrow.

Tottenham are eight points behind United having played a game more and need to win at White Hart Lane to remain in real contention, in a campaign where they have also impressed on the European stage.

Playing an expansive brand of football that is in keeping with Spurs' cherished tradition, the North London side have proved themselves capable of taking any team apart on their day – most famously against Inter Milan in the Champions League in November.

Ferguson believes it is down to Redknapp's straightforward approach to his job.

"Harry's great strength is his commonsense management," said the United chief.

"He doesn't confuse issues. He is a good judge of a footballer and is straightforward in what he demands of them.

"That is down to the experience he has gathered over the years. Commonsense management today is not a bad thing to have."

Ferguson acknowledges it is a long time since Spurs have enjoyed such good times.

"Traditionally, Tottenham are one of the really good football clubs, with a proper philosophy of the game," said Ferguson.

"Unfortunately you have to go back to 1961 (for their last league title) when they had their great team under Bill Nicholson.

"They were the first team to win the double after the war and won the FA Cup the following year.

"They were exciting and had an incredible team with really magnificent footballers, like Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay.

"Tottenham are always going to be well regarded because of that great period. That is the standard they have always had set for themselves and is why there has been such great disappointment about not winning the League since then."

Contending for the Barclays Premier League crown seemed a distant ambition when Redknapp arrived at Spurs.

With Martin Jol disposed of less than 18 months after getting Spurs to within a final-day win over West Ham of a Champions League place, the Londoners collapsed dramatically under Juande Ramos and were more in danger of relegation than breaking into the top four.

"The turnaround since Harry went there is quite startling," said Ferguson.

"Their performance level this season, allied to it being their first time in the Champions League, has been excellent.

"But the test for them will be when they combine being back in the Champions League in February and March with the challenge of the League and the FA Cup."

It leaves United facing what Ferguson describes as their "biggest test" so far, the first in a sequence of tough-looking away games that will almost certainly shape their season.

With that knowledge, the Red Devils could not be picking a better time to welcome back Wayne Rooney after a two-match absence, while captain Nemanja Vidic and veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar are also expected to return to the side that defeated Liverpool last weekend.

Redknapp has already stated his belief that United will not emulate Arsenal's 'Invincibles' by completing the entire campaign undefeated.

Ferguson does not view that as an attempt to undermine his own team, merely another example of his friend's down-to-earth approach. "There is nothing exceptional in that comment," he shrugged. "Harry is just echoing what I have said all along. There will be a blip. But can you tell him I don't want it to be on Sunday?"

Redknapp has denied the media circus surrounding David Beckham's presence at Tottenham has affected his team's preparations for the match against Manchester United.

The build-up to this weekend's game at White Hart Lane has been overshadowed by former United star Beckham, who started a four-week training spell with the club on Monday.

Ever since Beckham's arrival there has been a throng of camera crews and photographers stationed outside the club's training ground in Chigwell, Essex, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder.

But Redknapp rejected the suggestion that Beckham's presence at the club had done more harm than good and maintains his squad will benefit from Beckham's presence regardless of whether a loan deal can be agreed with his parent club or not.

"David has brought a buzz around the place," Redknapp said. "There are lots more press here than normal. There are people outside the ground every day.

"Once we come in here we train and get on with it. It doesn't affect us. It has been good having him here. Everyone respects him, likes him.

"He just comes in and just gets on with it. He's a great role model for any footballer."

Talks about a loan move for the 35-year-old have still to materialise into a concrete deal, with the Galaxy refusing to budge on their insistence that Beckham must return to pre-season training by the middle of February.

That would appear to have dealt a blow to Tottenham's chances of sealing a deal for Beckham, especially given that Redknapp will have to discard one member of his 25-man squad at the end of January if the midfielder is to play through February and until March.