MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, March 29 – Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson on Thursday hit back at claims by title rivals Manchester City that the defending champions received preferential treatment from referees.
Manchester City football development executive Patrick Vieira was widely quoted this week as saying that United and other top clubs around Europe were often given the benefit of the doubt by referees, particularly in home matches.
The former Arsenal and City midfielder pointed to United escaping what looked a clear penalty decision against them following a challenge by Michael Carrick on Danny Murphy late in the 1-0 victory over Fulham on Monday.
City later insisted Vieira’s remarks were taken out of context — but Ferguson was in no mood to ignore the comments on Thursday, as the battle for the Premier League enters a tension-filled climax.
Ferguson said United themselves could have had a penalty in Monday’s win over Fulham, insisting that decisions even themselves out over a season.
“I think we could have had a penalty on Monday night,” said Ferguson.
“But you don’t often get these ones when a wide player has crossed the ball and the player almost caught the ball between his arm and his body. We could have got a penalty but I wouldn’t have expected one to be honest with you.
“I think that from the referee’s position I could see why the referee didn’t give one when Danny Murphy was brought down because the ball was moved to the angle as Michael Carrick challenged him.
“From that position it wasn’t clear but it was a good claim.
“But then City could have had a penalty kick against them at Stoke, as everyone saw, with Gareth Barry (challenge on Glenn Whelan). So you get breaks here and there.
“Every club gets good breaks, they get bad breaks that even themselves out over a season and that will never change.
“We’ve had some terrible decisions at Old Trafford, when Newcastle got a penalty kick. Tottenham could claim the same when Balotelli wasn’t sent off and ended up scoring the winning goal (in City’s 3-2 win).
“You could go through millions of things like that.
“I think you maybe have a point that the smaller clubs feel that way. Someone said that to me some years ago that United always get penalty kicks at Old Trafford but you go back through the 25 years I’ve been here, it’s only averaged three a year, or three and a half a year, or something like that.
“You can’t say that’s a lot when we’re attacking teams every minute of the day. It has some mileage in terms of the press but most managers believe the breaks even themselves out.”
Ferguson has also moved to remove lingering fears that goalkeeper Anders Lidegaard will not play again this season after breaking down in training as he recovers from an ankle ligament injury.
The United manager has also given defender Rio Ferdinand a clean bill of health ahead of Monday night’s visit to Blackburn, leaving Nani as his only current injury concern, although the winger appears on the brink of returning to first team action.