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Fergie slams 'fouler' Crouch

ALEX Ferguson has branded Peter Crouch a "persistent fouler" after the striker ended Manchester United's 100pc start to the season.

Crouch scored his first Stoke goal since his £10million move from Spurs to cancel out Nani's opener and earn Stoke a share of the spoils.

Ferguson made it clear he was unhappy with Crouch's game.

"Crouch fouls all the time, he gets huffy but he jumps on top of defenders all the time," said Ferguson.

"He has been doing that for years, referees know that. He maybe caught Phil Jones for the goal but he is definitely a handful in the air."

Wayne Rooney was not on the pitch as United failed to win for the first time this season at Stoke and he will miss the next two games.

The 25-year-old injured his hamstring last week and Alex Ferguson has revealed that his star striker will be unavailable for at least another week.

Ferguson said: "It is difficult to say. It's a hamstring. It is not a serious one, it is a mild one.

"I don't think he will be available for next week. It will be more than a week out."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis, naturally, had a very different take on Crouch's contribution to Ferguson.

The striker's goal made him only the sixth player to have scored for six different Premier League clubs and Pulis was delighted with Crouch's all-round performance.

"I thought he was magnificent and that is why we spent decent money on him," Pulis said.

"The other players will learn off him because he has got tremendous technique. At times they (United) just could not handle him."


Crouch could have had a hat-trick. That he did not was down to his own finishing as well as the efforts of Red Devils goalkeeper David de Gea, who also pulled off superb saves to tip Andy Wilkinson's drive onto the woodwork and push Jon Walters' shot wide.

The Spaniard has endured a tough start to the season and looked unconvincing at times yesterday when high balls came into the box, but he certainly demonstrated his shot-stopping skills, something that did not escape the attention of Pulis.

"In the first half I thought the two saves the goalkeeper made ... people have been questioning him, but they were two wonderful stops," Pulis said.

"The one off Wilkinson must be the save of the season so far."

United's stand-in captain Patrice Evra feels De Gea's confidence is improving and that the 20-year-old has a big future ahead of him.

"Our goalkeeper was superb," Evra said. "David is doing very well. His confidence is going up. You can see when he makes a great save, all the players are very happy for him.

"I am really confident in him. He can be one of the best."

Rooney was not United's only absentee, with Jonny Evans having to be replaced at the back by Antonio Valencia after experiencing trouble with his ankle in the warm-up.

When play got under way Javier Hernandez was the next man to be struck down, hurt early on after being tackled by Jonathan Woodgate and subsequently substituted for Michael Owen in the 11th minute.

Although Evra insists United are not looking for excuses, the Frenchman admitted their task was made more difficult by the loss of key personnel.

"This is Manchester United -- we don't like to have excuses," Evra said.

"We played the game with Antonio Valencia at right-back and Phil Jones in left defence, we lost Javier at the beginning, and Wayne, Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic were not here.

"I am glad we don't have to come here every week. When you have played against Stoke, you need five games to recover."

It was the first time Stoke had taken points off United in the Premier League since their promotion to the top-flight in 2008.

Ryan Giggs squandered an opportunity to win it for the Red Devils in stoppage time, but given the Potters have also held Chelsea to a draw and beaten Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium this term, overall Evra was content with the outcome.

"I want to win every game, but I will be honest -- it is a good point," he said. "It is really difficult to come here and get three points. We have done it in the last few years but always with a goal in the last few minutes.

"I thought we were going to do it with Ryan.

"We have to congratulate everyone. It was not an easy game."

The draw was enough for United to leapfrog Manchester City and return to the top of the table, but they are only ahead of their derby rivals, who had earlier beaten Everton 2-0, on goal difference.