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English Premiership

Ferguson admits United escaped

MANCHESTER, England, March 27- Sir Alex Ferguson admitted that Manchester United had a narrow escape – despite establishing a three-point lead at the top of the Premier League with eight games remaining.

Wayne Rooney’s 21st top-flight goal of the campaign earned Ferguson’s side a narrow 1-0 win over mid-table Fulham at Old Trafford on Monday – United’s sixth straight league victory.

But the win was shrouded in controversy as Fulham were denied an 89th minute penalty when United midfielder Michael Carrick clipped substitute Danny Murphy.

Fulham manager Martin Jol said referee Michael Oliver had not been brave enough to make the decision.

Even Ferguson said it looked like a penalty, although the United manager claimed that his side had been denied a spot-kick when Stephen Kelly appeared to handle a cross by Patrice Evra in the first half.

“I think the referee has been a bit lenient when we had a claim for a penalty kick in the first half. It was a clear handball,” said Ferguson.

“It was a claim and Patrice Evra thought it was a stone-waller.

“He thought he handled the ball as it was going into the penalty box and denied an opportunity and maybe he (Oliver) was thinking about that.

“But certainly Michael Carrick caught Danny Murphy’s heel as he’s come back. We made enough chances to finish the game off but didn’t do it and nearly paid the penalty.”

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United are well placed to claim a 20th title and fifth in six seasons. Four of their next six games are against teams in the bottom six.

However, Ferguson will hope his side are more clinical than they were against Fulham.

“We missed some decent opportunities but you have to give credit to Fulham,” said the long-serving Scot.

“That was a really determined defensive performance. The problem is when you play teams who sit in your half the whole game they always have something left and they had more left than us in the final 15 minutes.

“A little bit of tiredness came into our game, we started to give the ball away and they had a lot of counter attacks through it and that was the disappointing thing for us, we never finished them off.

“It’s a good position to be in (in the table) but it’s not a decisive position.”

Fulham were eighth in the table after hammering Wolves 5-0 at the start of the month.

But they have now lost three games in a row.

Asked about the penalty that was not given, Jol said: “I think everyone in the stadium expected a penalty to be honest.

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“This is not the first time, especially not for me. In my experience you have to be brave to give a penalty at Manchester United and that is the only disappointment we have got.

“I thought they were pretty nervous at the end. We could have had a result.”

Jol added: “In the first half I thought in spells we did ever so well and created three or four half chances.

“Then we made a mistake and they scored.

“In the second half we stuck to our plans and in the end we could have had a goal.”

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