FA Cup 6th Round: Man United v Chelsea
Alex Ferguson has admitted Manchester United lost their composure for a crucial 10 minutes following Nani’s sending off against Real Madrid which cost them their Champions League place.
The furore over Wayne Rooney’s omission and the performance of referee Cuneyt Cakir at Old Trafford on Tuesday night has rather obscured a brutal truth, namely United allowed their winning position in the last-16 tie to be overturned in the space of just 13 minutes, from the moment Nani was sent off for a high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa.
Some of the blame has been placed at Ferguson’s door, for failing to react, in contrast to Jose Mourinho, whose introduction of Luka Modric within three minutes of Nani’s exit proved to be a masterstroke.
However, Ferguson feels the controversial decisions that cost United so dearly in 2004 and 2010 played on minds as the realisation dawned exactly the same thing was happening.
“We lost our composure for that 10-minute period,” said Ferguson.
“We were all over the place. There was a sense of: ‘here we go again’.
“You have to admire Madrid — it was a fantastic performance from them. But that 10-minute period was the killer.”
Ferguson has plainly never forgotten an incorrectly disallowed Paul Scholes effort against Porto nine years ago which would have given United extra protection against the late goal that eventually knocked them out.
Six years later, Rafael was sent off as United looked to protect a winning position after a similarly superb start against Bayern Munich, and they were beaten by Arjen Robben’s brilliant effort.
“That’s three European Cups we’ve been knocked out of due to refereeing decisions,” said Ferguson.
“We would have won two of them. I have absolutely no doubt about that.”
It was that knowledge which prompted Ferguson to try and whip up the United support as Mourinho was signalling for Modric to get changed.
Questions of Ferguson’s wisdom are fair given what subsequently happened, although the Scot insists he did the right thing.
“I was angry,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with losing your temper for the right reasons.
“I mirrored what every person in that ground felt.
Ferguson has still not got over Cakir decision, having opted not to attend the mandatory post-match press conference immediately after the game for fear his temper might boil over.
The situation was not helped by the reactions of Alvaro Arbeloa to being caught, nor Real skipper Sergio Ramos, who raced across to demand the Turkish referee take action.
“Arbeloa wasn’t that bad,” said Ferguson. “He didn’t stay down too long.
“Ramos was the one that maybe influenced the referee.”
But whilst disappointment lingers, Ferguson accepts dwelling on the negative is futile.
With a 12-point lead in the Premier League, United are still well placed to pocket some silverware, and should they come through tomorrow’s FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea, they would be only two victories away from potentially a fourth domestic double.
“We have a job to do on Sunday and I think we’ll do that okay,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson has vowed Wayne Rooney will still be at Manchester United next season.
Ferguson dropped a bombshell ahead of the Madrid game when he axed Rooney from his starting line-up.
Although the forward was eventually introduced 20 minutes from time as United began chasing the tie, Ferguson’s decision triggered a succession of stories claiming United were willing to let Rooney leave in the summer.
The United boss has taken exception to them, to the extent of banning two newspapers from his weekly press briefings until he receives an apology, and insists Rooney is going nowhere.
“Wayne will be here next year. You have my word on that,” said Ferguson.
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