Fergie criticises ref but Reds take blame for seventh draw

Sir Alex Ferguson criticised referee Lee Mason for missing three infringements in Birmingham City’s last-minute equaliser last night as Manchester United slipped to a seventh Premier League draw on the road this season. The Scot was right to feel aggrieved with Mason missing a handball, offside and foul on Rio Ferdinand in the build up.

In truth though, United should have put the game to bed well before Lee Bowyer’s controversial 90th minute equaliser at St Andrew’s. Once again, United’s failure to retain a lead cost Ferguson’s outfit points and a chance to move clear at the head of the Premier League table.

Indeed, was it not for the inconsistency of rivals, United could surely not sustain a league challenge with an away record that boasts just one domestic win all season.

“It was handball. There was [also] a foul on the centre-half. “He [Nicola Zigic] went right through the back of him [Ferdinand]. If the ref can’t see that, what chance have you got?” said Ferguson of Birmingham’s equalising goal.

“That’s where we expect - to get a referee who sees that. If you can’t see that, what chance have you got?”

Yet, United was nothing like as fluent against the Brummies as in the win over Sunderland on Boxing Day, despite Dimitar Berbatov’s 14th goal of an increasingly profitable season. The Bulgarian’s strike from the edge of the opposition area on the hour should have paved the way for a second United win of the Christmas programme. But as in early season games against Fulham and Everton, United gave up two potentially precious points at the death.

“I think it is terribly harsh,” added Ferguson.

“I think we outplayed them in the second half. We deserved to win the game, we were the better team. Maybe we should have finished them off. We just lacked a bit more care in our final pass and finishing.”

United began the match seeking to leapfrog Manchester City, whose win earlier in the day had taken the Blues top of the Premier League for the first time this season. Birmingham’s dogged perseverance – and luck at the death – means United regain top spot once again if only on goal difference from Roberto Mancini’s outfit.

In any case, the match was never likely to offer the Reds three easy points, with the Brummies having lost just once in the past 23 games at St Andrew’s.

Indeed, United struggled to break Birmingham down for much of the match, with former Red Ben Foster too rarely called into action. Chances came infrequently – Ryan Giggs almost scored with an attempted cross, while Berbatov’s neat exchange with Darron Gibson created the visitors’ only goal. Foster made just two further saves in a match that offered too little to footballing purists.

Perhaps most striking though was Wayne Rooney’s role – pushed to the left of United’s five-man midfield for much of the game, albeit with a license to support Berbatov in attack. The move limited Rooney’s attacking opportunities and his failure to hit the net means the former Evertonian is still yet to score a goal from open play this season.

United’s obvious lack of natural width also blunted the visitors’ edge. With Park Ji-Sung at the Asian Cup until February, Nani not fit for the trip to Birmingham and Antonio Valencia out until the Spring, Ferguson requires find additional options – quickly.

That Ferguson does not trust options already at the club suggests the Scot may dip into the market this January. Gabriel Obertan sat out the game on the bench, while £8 million Portuguese winger Bébé failed to make United’s matchday squad.

For all the obvious weaknesses in United’s squad Ferguson’s outfit remains in pole position heading into the third fixture of Christmas week.

“At this moment there are five or six teams who are all contesting that area at the top but if you get to new year and you are in that front position then you have a great chance,” added Ferguson.

Should United win at West Bromwich Albion tomorrow night, the Scot’s side will indeed be in that position with Arsenal fragile, City inconsistent and Chelsea in the worst run of form since the Roman Abramovich ear began.

The problem – points on the road are far from guaranteed.

Match Facts
Birmingham – 451 – Foster; Carr, Johnson, Dann, Ridgewell; Bowyer, Larsson (Hleb 69), Gardner, Ferguson, Beausejour (Zigic 82); Jerome (Phillips 85).

United – 451 – Van der Sar; Rafael da Silva, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Gibson (Hernandez 90), Anderson (Fletcher 73), Carrick, Giggs, Rooney; Berbatov.

Attendance – 28,242
Man of the Match – Berbatov

Possession: Birmingham 55% – 45% United
Attempts: 8 – 10
On Target: 3 – 4
Corners: 4 – 4
Fouls: 10 – 11

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Comments

  1. says

    Ed, The minute we start talking about the referee means we didn’t played well enough. Our first half ,probably, the worst the season. Unfortunately, MU showed will not win PL this year. Practically, so far we don’t deserve top spot. We can’t do without Park, Nani, Valencia (what a joke 2 years ago those 3 were not even at the bench). Bottom line: MU still ill. With Rooney out of form (i hope he come back one day) and no imminent reinforcement, i can see how we can claim top spot. Right now city looks more promising

  2. Bill says

    Yep United didn’t play well, but if the rules were enforced we would have won. Good teams win when playing badly. Football is the only major sports which no video technology isnt used. Mickey Mouse.

  3. herbie simms says

    Its a shame because I was just reading that Arsenal have beaten all the teams in the lower half of the table, yet all we do is draw with them. Arsenal are also presently winning away against Wigan. How will we do at West Brom?
    I get tired of hearing Fergie say everytime its an away game against lower rated teams, he keeps repeating that it is going to be difficult to get a result there. Is it difficult everywhere to get a result? United should be beating these lower rated teams home or away without much difficulty, no excuses from Fergie, yet we continue to struggle away from home against mediocore opposition.

  4. han says

    teams will always bust a gut when united come to their patch so it’s not a new phenomenum as to what saf is saying – but i do agree with the general consensus that 7 drawn games away are too many to be overly confident about being top come May

  5. Steve says

    The biggest concern is that SAF ever thinks that Gibson is good enough to get on our first team. When I saw it was him and Carrick I was really concerned. Although, to be fair, Carrick is starting to play relatively well again.

    Away from the negativity of Gibson, Rooney and more dropped points. We are top of the league, games in hand and our best players first touch has deserted him. When Rooney becomes a player again we really could have a strong second half of the season.

  6. Fazal says

    Fergie please take the blame for your poor team selection. Playing 5 in midfield against a team whose game plan was to hit the ball high up to a lonely striker was silly. And what midfield!! In the middle of it all stood the most talented midfielder UTD has produced: Darren Gibson…can’t pass the ball, can run with the ball, can’t even shoot nowawdays!! They guy is just not UTD quality. To play him alongside Carrick is suicidal-none of them offering any pace or vision.
    The article rightly points out: if without any winger fit to play Obertan cannot still make it in the team then why are we paying him a salary? Also only a pathetic PL campaign by every team has kept us on top…

    The worst is that yesterday’s display wasn’t an exception; its what we’ve come to expect from UTD these days…painful, lethargic,unimaginative, unfoccussed, uninterrested…pathetic simply pathetic!!
    Happy New Year to all…

  7. Axel F says

    When you’re playing a team that’s only lost 1 home game in 23, it’s always going to be a challenge. I thought we played well, we controlled the game for large parts even if the football wasn’t pleasing on the eye.
    This is one of the few away games we’ve played when I think our players were hard done by. It was a poor refereeing display in general, and how the officials missed the three infringements for their goal I do not know.
    And had they spotted it, surely this blog would have commented on how winning by 1-0 scorelines is the sign of champions.
    It’s a fine line really, isn’t it.

  8. herbie simms says

    Played a lot of possession in the second half, but just keeping the ball and not going forward enough is just not good enough. Birmingham players were just standing there watching us pass the ball around. If we had more pace up front and attacked their goal more, would have been a different result. Obertan or Bebe should have played some part. With their pace it would have opened up their defence because their was no Nani, so the pace up front was missing. Needed more variety in attack.

    • mongoletsi says

      What?

      Why on earth play Bebe or Obertan for the sole purpose of injecting pace? Hernandez has bags of pace, and more.

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