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Ferguson dismisses penalty claims

LONDON, April 7- Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson laughed off Chelsea's penalty claims after his side grabbed a precious first leg lead in their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea looked to have won a clear spot-kick in injury time after Patrice Evra clattered into Blues midfielder Ramires in the penalty area.

But Spanish referee Alberto Undiano infuriated Chelsea’s players after waving away their claims before United went on to seal their first victory at Stamford Bridge since 2002.

Television replays showed Evra had clearly taken out Ramires without touching the ball but Ferguson shrugged off Chelsea’s complaints, saying his team had been due a break.

"I haven’t seen it but if it was a penalty, it’s the first decision we’ve got here in seven years," Ferguson said.

"I don’t feel guilty about that all. It was a 50-50 challenge and I don’t know what the contact situation was. I’d need to see it again."

Ferguson was left furious last month after United were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in the Premier League. The United manager’s post-match tirade aimed at referee Martin Atkinson ultimately earned Ferguson a five-match touchline ban.

But Ferguson left Stamford Bridge a satisfied man on Wednesday after watching United produce one of their best performances of the season to secure a result that leaves them with one foot in the semi-finals.

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As well as a match-winning contribution from under-fire striker Wayne Rooney, Ferguson was able to reflect on the successful return of Rio Ferdinand, playing his first match for more than two months following a calf injury.

Rooney’s 24th-minute winner followed his hat-trick against West Ham last weekend, a performance that was overshadowed by his expletive-laden tirade into a television camera that triggered an FA disciplinary charge.

"We’re pleased at his performance. That was tremendous. He played fantastic," Ferguson said of Rooney.

"He’s now been more regular in his goalscoring, which in the second half of the season is going to be important to us, that’s another important one for us. He did well."

Ferguson was also purring at the return of Ferdinand.

"The experience of Rio was fantastic tonight," he said. "The squad is getting stronger."

Ferguson meanwhile cautioned that United still had to finish the job when they face Chelsea at Old Trafford next week, warning that the Londoners were still alive in the tie.

"Of course they could do it. It’s only one goal. It will be a tight game at Old Trafford there’s no doubt about that," Ferguson said.

The intimidating atmosphere generated by United’s fans at the fabled ‘Theatre of Dreams’ could prove decisive, Ferguson said.

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"It’s an advantage," Ferguson said. "The biggest advantage is Old Trafford. The fans will be absolutely fantastic on Tuesday. It will be an electric atmosphere and I look forward to that."

Ferguson meanwhile denied suggestions that he had set his sights on repeating the 1999 treble.

"I said we’re in every competition we’ve got to do our best," Ferguson said. "It doesn’t matter if you can’t win a thing. When you go out on that field you have to win the game — that’s the attitude of Manchester United."

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