ALEX FERGUSON vented his frustration at Manchester United's first Premier League draw of the season with the outlandish claim that Robin van Persie was "lucky to be alive" after being struck by the ball in a melee during the 1-1 draw at Swansea City.
In an outburst that said as much about Ferguson's disappointment at seeing United's lead over Manchester City eroded to four points as it did about the danger posed to Van Persie, the United manager said Swansea captain Ashley Williams should be banned by the English FA for his part in the incident.
The flashpoint came in the 75th minute of an open and eventful game in which Michu's 13th league goal of the season cancelled out Patrice Evra's opener for the visitors.
Van Persie was brought down on the edge of the Swansea box by Nathan Dyer as United pressed for a winner, and, as referee Michael Oliver whistled for the free-kick, Williams' lashed clearance hit the Dutchman's head as he lay on the ground.
It drew a furious reaction from Van Persie, who lunged at Williams, grabbing his shirt before being dragged away by team-mates.
Both players were booked and had Van Persie not slipped as he went for the centre-half, he may have earned a red card for his retaliation.
Ferguson shared his player's anger and was still fuming after the final whistle, casting what appeared to be a relatively minor incident as a grave threat to Van Persie's well-being.
"Robin is lucky to be alive. It was a disgraceful act from their player and he should be banned by the FA. Robin could have had a broken neck," the United manager said. "The Van Persie situation, you can clearly see that he could have been killed. The FA has got to look into it regardless that he has been given a yellow card.
"He should be banned for a long time because that was the most dangerous thing I've seen on a football field for many years.
"It was absolutely deliberate. The whistle has gone, the game has stopped and he has done that right in front of the referee, he could have killed the lad. It was a disgraceful act by the player."
Ferguson also criticised referee Oliver for missing what he felt was a foul on Van Persie by Swansea defender Chico Flores in the build-up to the home side's deserved equaliser, and insisted his side should have won.
"It was a foul on Van Persie, a clear foul," he said. "The referee had one of those days where we didn't get anything out of him.
"It was a shocking performance. I know he is a young referee but I was disappointed with that performance."
But Ferguson was not critical of his players, despite their failure to find a winner during a final half-hour where they put Swansea under incessant pressure.
He said: "We absolutely battered them. It was a great performance in the second half. It is unbelievable we didn't win the match.
"My only criticism is that the final ball at times let us down. No criticism of the performance, it was very good."
Williams rejected the allegation he had deliberately endangered an opponent's life, describing it as an accident.
"It's his opinion and he's entitled to it," he said of Ferguson's allegation.
"I understand why Van Persie was angry. I've kicked the ball away in frustration, but I wasn't trying to hit him in the head."
The Swansea player added: "I tried to say sorry, but he wasn't having it. I haven't spoken to him since the game and I didn't shake hands afterwards – but only because I didn't see him.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's no big deal. If I had tried to hit him on the head deliberately, I would have missed! It's not like I'm going to shoot and hit him square in the head like that."
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup described it as "a great point" for the club, dismissing Ferguson's comments as the product of a heated moment.
"Well, I think he meant not killing him (Van Persie) literally. I think there are always things happen in the game, when the last whistle blows. We all know that when your pulse is 180 you can say things during the game you don't mean. But afterwards things go back to normal."
He said: "I am pleased with a good performance. They started a bit better than us, scored the goal and had five- to 10-minute period where they could have scored a second which would have made it difficult.
"We equalised and I thought first half was an equal contest; in the second half it was a more open game.
"They had more of the ball and created more chances but I felt it could have gone either way.
"They had more chances but that is normal when playing a side who are top of the table.
"It is a great point for the club and the players. I heard last season there was too much respect shown for United, that was not the case today." (© Daily Telegraph, London)