Fergie questions officials as title comes down to Chelsea tie

May 1, 2011 Tags: , , Opinion 27 comments

There is little doubt that Manchester United was denied a clear penalty with less that five minutes remaining at the Emirates on Sunday but in truth Sir Alex Ferguson’s reverted to type in defeat away from Old Trafford. Ferguson’s side was everything witnessed so often on the road this season: timid, lacklustre and above all, outclassed in midfield. Worse still, there was none of the adventure or creativity displayed at the Veltins Arena last Tuesday as United went down to an Arsenal side essentially playing for nothing but pride.

The frustration was tantamount in the United camp as referee Chris Foy missed Gael Clichy’s clear foul on Michael Owen with minutes remaining. Ferguson’s anger was compounded too, with Patrice Evra denied another good shout for a spot kick in the 68th minute after Bacary Sanga appeared to drag down his fellow countryman.

In truth Arsenal can also point a handball by Nemanja Vidic early in the piece that was also missed by the Merseyside official, although the Serbian’s touch was so fine that perhaps only Robin van Persie could have seen the infringement. Owen’s claim was none of the sort, with Foy well positioned to make what could prove a decisive moment in the Premier League title race.

It was almost too much for Ferguson to take post-match – the Scot did well not to incur further FA wrath after recently serving a five-match touchline ban for criticising officials.

“It’s too big a game not to get the decisions right,” Ferguson told Sky Sports.

“It balances out in that respect but I think it was difficult to see that one [Vidic’s handball] but the one at the end, Clichy knew, he put his hands up in horror. Obviously, it gives Chelsea a major chance now and that’s what happens when you get these decisions. They got one at Old Trafford last season so that’s the worry now. But in terms of ability – a game at Old Trafford, the supporters will be ready for it – and so will our players.”

Ferguson’s thinly veiled reference to Chelsea’s good fortune on Saturday, when the west London club were awarded two goals that should never have been against Tottenham Hotspur, is pertinent. Last season’s title charge was greatly altered by Didier Drogba’s winning goal at Old Trafford, scored from an offside position. Moreover, prior to United’s Champions League quarter-final win over the Londoners had enjoyed a series of refereeing decisions that irked Ferguson.

All that is now required to solidify the Scot’s paranoia is for the Premier League to appoint Martin Atkinson to take charge of next weekend’s key fixture. The official appointment is likely to be announced on Tuesday, ahead of United’s Champions League second-leg fixture with Schalke.

However, while Ferguson is a master at exerting pressure on whomever takes charge of next Sunday’s tie, the Scot will surely banish all negative thoughts from the United camp ahead of the match. Win or draw against last season’s champions and United will surely take a 19th domestic title. Lose and the title’s destiny will be outside United’s control for the first time in weeks. United can only countenance the former.

Indeed, with an identical goal difference, a Chelsea victory at Old Trafford will provoke a two-match shoot out to clinch the title. United versus Blackburn Rovers and Blackpool; Chelsea against Newcastle United and Everton.

That is for the coming weeks though. Ahead of the Chelsea tie United must play in Europe with the Londoners facing nothing more strenuous than a week’s light training at Cobham. The freshness should hand a distinct advantage to next weekend’s visitors, although Ferguson will rest key forward players for the Schalke tie.

“We have a big week ahead,” said Ferguson.

“Wednesday is a European semi-final second leg and then the game on Sunday [against Chelsea], so two massive games. We will regroup and freshen it up.

“I will make some changes on Wednesday without question. I will bring Paul Scholes back in, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen. We’ll need to do that but I will probably keep my experienced players at the back.

“We are in as good a position as you could ever wish for at the start of the season – semi-final of the European Cup, second leg, two-goal lead and go into a home game on Sunday level on goal difference [and with a three-point advantage].”

United’s good position both at home and in Europe could be undone inside the next six days though. And Ferguson is fortunate that three of the coming key games are at Old Trafford, with only the Blackburn game on the road. Given United’s horrendous form away from Manchester, where Ferguson’s side has won just five times in the Premier League, the fixture list is but a small mercy.

Until Wednesday the United squad will have much to ponder in tamely losing at the Emirates, whatever the poor officiating. And then it is to the two recent European games against Chelsea that United must turn, where the Reds’ positive intent drew high dividends.

Those games were everything Sunday at the Emirates was not.


Sir Cecil - May 1, 2011 Reply

Every time Man Utd lose, it’s because of the officials. Every time. Man Utd is too good to lose unless the officials get it wrong. Why, we even know that if a penalty HAD been awarded, we’d have scored from it. That’s for certain. Always.

MancsTogether - May 1, 2011 Reply

SAF should be questioning the application of his wellpaid for minimal effort players before debunking the officials.

herbie simms - May 2, 2011 Reply

I don’t know why we complain about penalties that are not given. If a penalty is not given, it accounts to nothing. But if a penalty is given and we miss the penalty, then you can say we lost the game because so and so missed a penalty.
But if a penalty was not given in the first place, that would not be the reason why we lost. I read Fergie’s comments and he is again blaming the ref and he goes on to say that he is worried that poor referee decisions may cause him not to win the league title. The team needs to get out on the field and get the job done. We cannot lose our killer instinct because of bad referee decisions. Fergie needs to keep pushing the team to the finish line and to hell with the refs.

mongoletsi - May 3, 2011 Reply

Hrm, but most penalties do go in mate.

A poor decision last year (Drogba’s massively offside goal) arguably cost us the title.

I don’t disagree with you entirely though.

Ed - May 3, 2011 Reply

76% are scored… although this rises to 99% for shots at the ‘higher half of goal’ according to some German boffins 🙂

Geno - May 2, 2011 Reply

Fergie is just annoyed because he got his tactics wrong. He gambled on 4-4-2 because the Rooney/Hernandez partnership had come up trumps against Everton, Schalke and Chelsea in the Champs League (twice). I think he punted on using the formation against Arsenal as he expected them to be shattered after the loss at Bolton. They came out of the traps on fire and the Utd midfield couldn’t cope. Hernandez ended up being as useless as tits on a bull, not because he’s a bad player (he’s brilliant in my view) but because Utd couldn’t keep the ball in the midfield and hence he had no service.

It didn’t help that Fletch is only just now coming back from illness and Scholes was still suspended – to be fair to Fergie, if he had gone with the 4-3-3 that worked so well at the Emirates last year, the question is who would he have put in central midfield alongside Anderson and Carrick? Not Darron Gibson, FFS.

SKW - May 2, 2011 Reply

They got outplayed, simple as that.

Most of the Chelsea losses mentioned here, stupid decisions or no, they were totally outplayed, too. I mean, yeah Drogba was offside last season, but we were terrible the whole game.

Simple fact is I had a horrible feeling about this match all week. I suspected we’d muck it up, go negative and then expect to escape somehow. That just doesn’t work against sides like Arsenal, a class team no matter how poorly their season is ending up. And you just knew the Arse would be up for this match.

Baldrick - May 2, 2011 Reply

Yes, we were outplayed. Rooney was pretty static and we were second to every ball. We deserved to lose with that kind of performance, but to get back to the officials, there needs to be consistency at least. Look at the decisions that went Chelski’s way (Ball not over the line, and clear offside) against Owen’s calf scrape and Evra’s pull down and we are definitely being robbed of our 19th title. Even when Fabio was Yellowed for his shoulder charge, an Arsenil player does the same a mere few minutes later and doesn’t even get a talking to. Bring on Video!

Damian Garside - May 2, 2011 Reply

We may be at home against Chelsea, but now they have the momentum and we are on the defensive. We may even play for a draw. These lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar suggested themselves, since when we were 1-0 up away to Wolves after only 5 minutes we had the trophy in our hands and this was months ago (if we had won we would have been totally out of sight, with no team having any realistic hope of catching us), The reason why teams have come back at us and swallowed our lead is because they have taken heart from our poor results away from home. Right now, I wouldn’t bet my house against us finishing the season empty handed. Here’s the quote:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of thier life
Is bound in swallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves.
Or lose our ventures.

Do the players understand how horrible it would be for us to lose a Cuo semi final to City, to let Chelsea take the league from a position when they were 15 or so points behind us at one stage, and to go to Wembley and not show up against Barcelona and have them tikka-takka past us with impunity on their way to the CL trophy? If not, we as fans should make it clear to the players, the owners and Sir Alex that there are things we just cannot take (should a blowout indeed happen).

Victor - May 2, 2011 Reply

Seriously, officials again? You can get away with accusing officials, once, twice even thrice but stop moaning every goddamn time. I wouldn’t grudge Chelsea even if Martin Atkinson wins them the match next weekend.

If Ferguson wants United to play like this, they deserve all the bad luck they get. Seriously, surrendering possession to Arsenal who got schooled by Barcelona and then hoping to play well against Barcelona is just plain delusion.

Oh but what do I know, wiseguys around here think Man City player Denis Law was the greatest striker in history.

Do me a favour and translate from Manchester Thug to English before replying.

vlad - May 2, 2011 Reply

Why are you picking up on Law for goodness sake?
Schmikes went to City too, but i’m pretty sure that even GNev will now shake his hand.

Ed - May 2, 2011 Reply

Victor – not only are you boring and predictable but a WUM

Brown - May 2, 2011 Reply

The earlier we get over this defeat, the better for us because i believe the excuses for our defeat are just too flimsy for my liking,over the officials, penalties and all what not. We were simply out classed by a team low in confidence. Well Mr Wenger now has something to brag about.
The question now remains, with our woeful perfomance on sunday against the spineless gooners what chances do we have against Barca in the finals? ‘Not trying to count my chicken before they are hatched, only being an optimist’

We have been critisizing Mr Mourinho of late for his tactics, what plans does Fergie have for the finals? Do u think he will play for wins or hold Barca to a draw?

I really wont worry about chelsea because i know we are hungrier than they are for the title. I believe we will see our best peformance of the season against them.

Fergie please sell and buy some quality players.

Damian Garside - May 2, 2011 Reply

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just sms your message directly into Fergie’s brain?

This is the acid test. If we win the double or even one of the 2 trophies, there will be United voices crying out: see, Oh ye of little faith, you doubted but the man has done it again: he is a magic maker who gets players to play far beyond themselves when the crunch comes.

If we choke, then there will be United voices saying how deluded we were, how the man has lost it, how for want of a decent midfield player we lost everything. If Fergie does not realise that everything for him is now on the line, then he is not as smart as we think he is. If we choke, they will write: “greatest come from behind victory in the history of the league” or somesuch (about Chelsea), with the sub-heading: “Ferguson marrs his great legacy with horrific blowout”. All those pundits and football spin merchants who get paid by the column inch will be singing this tune, forgetting that only a couple of weeks ago they were saying that this United may be a team short on style, but it has real gumption, self-belief and commitment (a soul of iron).

But hey, maybe we get a trophy or both of them. But someone would seem to need to wave a magic wand and soon, to conjure up something special from who we have on the field and on the bench.But please, if we do win something, build a team for next season that has strength and guile and can kill the opposition home and away. A team that was as strong as the 94 double winnign team. It would be great to see us dominate teams again, and come to their home grounds and terrorize then for the full 90 minutes. And a private little conjecture: our team of 94 could take the Barcelona tikka-takka side anyday. Tikka -takka past Keane and Ince: never in a 100 years!

Ted - May 2, 2011 Reply

Well he would blame the officials would’nt he! Be nice if once in a while he came out and held his hands up and said how much better the opposition were today, or that he tactically fucked up, or maybe that our midfield has been weak for some time and that we are constantly having to change things to accomodate that weakness. Or maybe just go balls out the bath and admit he’s spent millions and millions on players who have had far too many chances to prove their worth, and have failed him miserably.

Tired of hearing his excuses.

Football - May 2, 2011 Reply

Chelsea has had a tremendous comeback in the title race. United had an 11 points lead and Chelsea closed the gap to 3 points. This fantastic comeback adds more pressure on United ahead of the title decider on Old Trafford.

Spudiator - May 2, 2011 Reply

The game next week isn’t a title decider, if we’d got a point yesterday it could’ve been, but even if we win next weekend Chelsea still aren’t mathematically out.

St Newlyn - May 2, 2011 Reply

A draw against Chelsea a draw against Blackburn and a win against Blackpool and thats if Chelsea get results against us Newcastle and in particular Everton. The refs decisions during Chelsea v Spurs masked over the fact that Chelsea created very little through midfield and often resort to pumping it long to Drogba. They have to win at OT and will have to try and stretch the game at some point. We will score and as long as we control the game in their half we wont lose.

Alfonso Bedoya - May 2, 2011 Reply

Blog Commenter said:
Seriously, officials again? You can get away with accusing officials, once, twice even thrice but stop moaning every goddamn time. I wouldn’t grudge Chelsea even if Martin Atkinson wins them the match next weekend.

If Ferguson wants United to play like this, they deserve all the bad luck they get. Seriously, surrendering possession to Arsenal who got schooled by Barcelona and then hoping to play well against Barcelona is just plain delusion.

Oh but what do I know, wiseguys around here think Man City player Denis Law was the greatest striker in history.

Do me a favour and translate from Manchester Thug to English before replying.

FFS… even when you’re right, you can’t resist making an arsehole of yourself.

Does that need translating for you?

Alfonso Bedoya - May 2, 2011 Reply

The Renties stole victory off Spurs… and that seems unfair.
But it would have made no difference had we done the business yesterday… we didn’t and we can blame no one but ourselves for that.
Arsenal were a beaten side, playing for nowt but pride… had we played with a bit more purpose, and ambition, we could have and should have won… instead, we let Arsenal play their football, and build up some enthusiasm for the game…
We should have gone there, and slapped them down right from the start, and dominated a side with nothing to gain…

“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

sheesh - May 2, 2011 Reply

Some of these new people on here need banning.

vlad - May 2, 2011 Reply

The thing is.. we were not outplayed, it was deliberate.

We did have an onslaught at the end when SAF told them to attack.
Should have pressed from the start, but unfortunately this Mourinho-esque approach gives an idea of how we are going to play Barca.
Not going to win if do not try at least IMO.

Some people here slate Anderson, but he did not play too bad; he defended better than Carrick. We should have had Berba on for Carrick, not Chica; and Valencia on for Park or Nani.

Park is supposed to mark Messi for goodness sake!

Pikey McScum - May 2, 2011 Reply

No, Ed.

He’s just a rancid cunt.

herbie simms - May 3, 2011 Reply

Yes, you ate right on about that! If we would have played with more purpose and came with that killer instinct, we would have won this match. I just have a strong feeling that SAF is going to play his ex Carling Cup team against Schalke.
Might see O’Shea, Evans, Gibson, Obertan and Bebe in the starting team. I really hope not because SAF claims he wants to rest most of his main squad for the Chelsea game. So what surprises are we in for now? Is SAF starting to panic already?

ja - May 3, 2011 Reply

“Oh but what do I know, wiseguys around here think Man City player Denis Law was the greatest striker in history.”

Why dont you call Denis the Huddersfield, Man City, Torino, United and Man City player?
If you had been old enough to see Denis in his prime, you would accept that us ‘wiseguys’ as saying Denis was the greatest striker we had seen in the flesh. True for me, though in terms of greatest striker seen including TV, I would say Gerd Mueller.

Damian Garside - May 3, 2011 Reply

Can’t we at least try to win the league and the CL in style? Please Fergie, no playing for a draw against Chelsea, we need to beat them at OT and make it clear that when it came to the crunch game we were too good for them. And then wrap up the Blackpool and Blackburn games and win the title by a good 6 points (and nobody reaching for calculators in the final minutes of the last match to figure out whether we are going to win it or not based on goal difference) . Then we can say, that they had the momentum, they had come from so far behind, but when they came to OT we simply derailed them. And then, flush with this victory, no parking the bus against Barca and hoping to win on a penalty shootout lottery.We need to produce mythical, legendary performances in these last games, performances befitting the greatest football club in the world.

Julian - May 3, 2011 Reply

Excellent summation Ed. Frankly, once Arsenal blew it against Liverpool and Bolton, I knew it was going to come down to this Chelsea game. Quite frankly if we lose that one we don’t deserve it. Surely we should be able to get the draw needed to keep Chels at bay ? Not that we should be playing for one though. The worrying feature of the Arse game was the fact that the midfield was all at sea for most of the game – well certainly the first half and quite a bit of the second. I don’t think Fergie has had much clue what his best central midfield combo is for most of this season. A lack of quality resources in that department has been made worse by injuries to Fletcher and hitherto Anderson. How we have missed Hargreaves in the holding role. A further worry is that Nani looks to have gone off the boil and Valencia, after playing so well in his comeback, is also now off the pace and lacking his usual influence. Teams know these two are dangers out wide, that a lot of our attacks come through them and have set their stall out to mark and isolate them.

Ancelloti will have done his homework since the ECL games and will be coming with a different game plan. Fergie will no doubt be prepared for some change in approach by them. They have to win so hopefully an open game will give us the opportunity to get a goal or two. Whatever happens they musn’t win. Simple as that !

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