Sir Alex Ferguson hit out at referee Martin Atkinson after Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The result hinged on a two-minute spell near the end when David Luiz, who had levelled Wayne Rooney’s excellent opener with a superb volley, tripped the United striker on the edge of the box having already been booked. Instead, Atkinson waved play on and, as Chelsea countered, pointed to the spot when Yuri Zhirkov tumbled under Chris Smalling’s challenge.
“You hope you get a strong referee in games like this,” said Ferguson. “It was a major game for both clubs. You want a fair referee – or a strong referee, anyway – and we didn’t get that. I don’t know why he has got the game. I must say, when I saw who the referee was I did fear it. I feared the worst.”
Ferguson’s mind must have immediately drifted back to the corresponding fixture last season when he felt Chelsea had first been given a debatable free-kick, then Didier Drogba was allowed to get away with a clear foul on Wes Brown to allow John Terry to score the winner.
“Decisions again,” he said. “That’s three years in a row now. It’s hard to take. The Luiz foul was six yards in front of the referee, maybe eight if we give him the benefit of the doubt, no obstructions whatsoever. I don’t know how he stayed on the pitch. And the penalty was very soft. In actual fact, Chris has taken the ball and the player’s left his leg in. Very soft. Amazing.”
To make matters worse, in a tetchy finale, skipper Nemanja Vidic was sent off for a second bookable offence, ruling him out of Sunday’s trip to Liverpool, a match Rio Ferdinand will not be fit for either.
“I don’t think Rio will be fit for Liverpool,” said Ferguson. “Wes Brown will take over. It was a great performance by us. We didn’t deserve that. Even in the second half we made some great chances. Their first goal was a slack bit of defending at the back post and he took it well. I didn’t fear anything, though. I thought we had every chance.”