Monday, 23 March 2009

Fulham collapse has Ferguson in a fluster

Sir Alex Ferguson won few new friends with his misguided attack on referee Phil Dowd on the back of a disastrous afternoon for Manchester United on the banks of the Thames on Saturday.

The experienced Scot is the master at finding diversions in the face of adversity but his assertion that Wayne Rooney should not have been sent for an early bath for throwing the ball in a show of petulance is papering over the cracks.

Ferguson told the official club station MUTV: "Did he (Rooney) throw the ball at the referee? The ball was thrown direct to where the free-kick was being taken - did it hit the referee? No.

"He threw it because he wanted to get the game going. What can you say about that?"

Dowd had no option but to show the luckless Paul Scholes a straight red in the 17th minute when he prevented a certain goal with his hand, but to focus on the match official would be hiding from the truth that the wheels are in danger of coming off for the Premier League leaders.

Cristiano Ronaldo might also have joined his two team-mates on the coach early had Dowd not spared the off-colour Portugal international in the face of a sustained show of histrionics.

A 2-0 defeat against an inspired Fulham, on the back of last week's 4-1 home reverse against Liverpool, means the world club champions suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time in 147 games.

Liverpool's 5-0 mauling of Aston Villa on Sunday has also seen Rafa Benitez's rejuvenated side trim United's lead to just one point, although the Old Trafford club does still have a game in hand.

Ferguson also talked about his team, a few weeks back trumpeted as his best ever, "meeting the challenge" of a tight title race, although the impending break for internationals will hardly improve his efforts to galvanise a squad in danger of an end-of-season collapse.

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