| 11.8°C Dublin

Fallen Fergie sees red

A SHOCKED Alex Ferguson launched a scathing attack on his players after Manchester United were sent crashing out of the FA Cup by Leeds United yesterday.

Jermaine Beckford's 19th-minute goal secured his club's first win at Old Trafford for almost 29 years on an unforgettable afternoon for the fallen giants, and Ferguson promised to wield the axe before United make the short trip to Manchester City in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday.

Yesterday's 1-0 defeat means that United have failed to reach the fourth round of the Cup for the first time during Ferguson's 23-year reign.

The last time they were knocked out in the third round was in the 1983-84 season, when Ron Atkinson's side were beaten 2-0 by Bournemouth.

Ferguson was also furious at the failure to play more than the allocated five minutes of stoppage time at the end and risked a rebuke from the Football Association by claiming that the time added on was "an insult to the game and the players out there".

The United manager has a two-match suspended touchline ban hanging over him for describing Alan Wiley as "unfit to referee" in October.

The reward for Leeds is another trip to the kind of venue to which their supporters used to be accustomed as the League One club visit Tottenham Hotspur in the outstanding tie of the fourth-round draw.

Ferguson took the defeat hard. "I didn't expect that," he said. "The preparation was very good. I was shocked at the performance.

"We didn't start right and Leeds did start right. They fought like tigers, but you expect that from any team coming to Old Trafford. They had a far bigger appetite than us for the game.



Changes

"We have to get it out of our system -- that's exactly what you have to do. But we have a semi-final on Wednesday and a lot of these players today won't be playing. You have to view that performance in the right light, but we have to get ready for Wednesday now. I had the team in mind but there may be one or two changes now.

"It's a disappointment. Human beings can always surprise you but we didn't expect that. I don't think any of them can say they had a good day."

Wes Brown replaced Nemanja Vidic in the starting line-up after the Serbia defender pulled up in the warm-up.

"I couldn't tell you, I couldn't tell you at all," Ferguson said when asked to explain what was wrong with Vidic. His replacement was caught out by Jonathan Howson's fine pass and Beckford, despite a heavy first touch, finished with aplomb.

"We spoke about it (Beckford's pace) before the game," Ferguson said. "They were caught napping. It was a bad goal for us to lose."

Simon Grayson, the Leeds manager, said: "It's another fantastic draw for us against another top Premier League club. We are looking forward to it."



Success

Leeds have beaten Tottenham only once in the competition, in 1972 -- the year of their only FA Cup success.

Grayson paid tribute to their 9,000-strong army of travelling supporters and said the result was their reward for sticking by the club after a calamitous five years. "It was a fantastic achievement," he said. "It is stages like these that make you want to perform and I want to be back here as a Premier League manager."

Chelsea, who crushed Watford 5-0, are firm favourites to retain the Cup. They will travel to Preston North End in the fourth round.

The only guaranteed top-flight meeting is Arsenal's trip to Stoke City, where Arsene Wenger's team -- 2-1 winners over West Ham United yesterday -- lost in acrimonious circumstances in the Premier League last season.


Privacy