ALEX FERGUSON hit out at the challenge by Andy Carroll on his goalkeeper David De Gea which left the Manchester United stopper needing treatment before half-time.
"I think it's obvious, I don't think we need to dwell on that. It's an obvious red card, but the referee has seen it differently," said an angry Ferguson.
"We know how they play, the ball is in the air most of the time and they're very, very aggressive, so you hope there's a strong referee. I'm not so sure we got that."
Despite those misgivings, Ferguson was proud of his players' resolve and declared it the performance of "champions."
United are 13 points clear of rivals Manchester City, who have six games to play to the Red Devils' five. "We had to stand up to a lot, we went down twice, but we kept going. We played like champions," he said. "It was magnificent in terms of determination and courage. We're determined to win, we don't like losing."
Carroll was watched from the stands by England manager Roy Hodgson, who, like Carroll must wish that he had never moved to Liverpool. Like Hodgson too, however, he has also been rebuilding his career away from the inflated expectation of Anfield.
Carroll went into last night's game following a profitable sequence of five goals in seven games and, taking into account the quality of the opposition, this was one of his most complete displays since leaving Newcastle.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic never looked comfortable in Carroll's presence and, while Ferguson was justifiably unhappy with the challenge on De Gea, there was probably a compliment to be found somewhere within his anger.
Ferguson does not generally become too animated with people he does not regard as a threat and, from the very first minute last night, it was clear that Carroll would be just that.
Aside from his footballing qualities, Carroll's whole demeanour was of a player whose self-belief has fully returned.
The contrast with Wayne Rooney, with whom he may yet form a profitable international partnership, was certainly stark. Rooney was at fault for West Ham's second and was sacrificed as United sought to salvage the game.
It wasn't the first time this season that, needing a goal, Ferguson took off the man who had formerly been his star striker.
There was a cursory handshake between Ferguson and Rooney as he left the field, however his departure won't help talk that his future may lie away from Old Trafford, with Paris Saint-Germain known to been keen.
Carroll faces an uncertain club future for very different reasons but, if a deal can somehow be struck with Liverpool, he looks well suited to the West Ham system under Sam Allardyce.
The same could still also apply for England under Hodgson. "Andy can be the talisman of the England team," Alan Shearer once said. On last night's evidence, it was not such an outlandish claim. (© Daily Telegraph, London)