Alex Ferguson says Real Madrid apologised for referee error
ALEX Ferguson questioned his deep faith in football after Nani was dismissed against Real Madrid.
Ferguson believes that “refereeing decisions” were behind Manchester United's demise in the Champions League in 2004, 2010 and now 2013. “I think we’d have won two of them,” he argued.
History is written by the triumphant while the vanquished are left to endure the verdicts. Ferguson has read all the theories this week following the loss to Real that Wayne Rooney controversially did not start the game and Nani failed to finish. The manager did not agree with many of the conclusions.
Too “distraught” to speak after the game at Old Trafford on Tuesday, Ferguson was back in default defiant mode before training at Carrington.
He marched in, sat down and challenged an audience reduced by Rooney-related bans on two newspapers whether they wanted to “talk nonsense or talk sense”.
Before addressing the refereeing of Cuneyt Cakir, Ferguson launched into the “issue” of Rooney. “He’ll be here next year, you have my word on that,’’ Ferguson promised. “There’s absolutely no issue between Wayne Rooney and I. To suggest we don’t talk on the training ground is absolute nonsense and he understood the reasons for not playing him were completely tactical.’’
Ferguson felt Danny Welbeck could “choke” the area around Real’s chief distribution centre, Xabi Alonso.
Ferguson’s game-plan having worked for nearly an hour, he was enraged when Cakir sent off Nani for attempting to win the ball and accidentally catching Alvaro Arbeloa. In quotes attributed to Cakir in the Spanish media, the referee claimed that “the red card to Nani was correct”. The Turkish FA issued a statement denying its referee had given any interviews.
According to Ferguson, Real were so embarrassed by the red card that “a couple of their players did apologise’’. He said: “Cristiano Ronaldo was great. He came into the dressing room after the game and sat with the players. It was good. He said that himself [that United were unlucky]. I don’t think Arbeloa was that bad. He didn’t stay down too long. He got up. Sergio Ramos was the one that really influenced the referee, maybe.
“Nani’s disappointed. He probably has that feeling of guilt but I don’t think he did anything wrong. It’s hard to keep your faith when you see these things happen. That’s three European Cups we’ve been knocked out of due to refereeing decisions. We’d have won two of them. I have no doubt about that.”
The first season Ferguson referred to was 2003-04 and particularly the round-of-16 second leg with Jose Mourinho’s Porto. “Porto, definitely. Scholes offside,’’ Ferguson said. Paul Scholes had turned in John O’Shea’s effort and was wrongly ruled offside. It got worse for United.
“The decision of the Russian referee when they brought down Ronaldo [who was] right through and didn’t even book him,’’ Ferguson reflected of Dmitri Alenichev’s foul ignored by Valentin Ivanov. “They got the free-kick right after that.” Phil Neville conceded it and, eventually, Costinha scored. However frustrated Ferguson might have been, many observers felt Mourinho’s side deserved to progress. “We would have won the European Cup that year,’’ Ferguson said. “They got Monaco in the final, didn’t they?” And won easily in Gelsenkirchen.
“The other one was Rafael against Bayern Munich,” Ferguson said of the full-back’s dismissal for two cautions by the Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli, at Old Trafford on April 7, 2010. His first offence was to aim a kick at Mark van Bommel. The second was for a pull on Franck Ribery. Few neutrals disputed Rafael’s expulsion. Bayern went on to lose to Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the Bernabéu final.
It needs emphasising that United have benefited from refereeing action or inaction such as the assistant referee’s failure to notice Pedro Mendes’s shot crossing the line at Old Trafford in 2005 before Roy Carroll hooked it clear. Among others.
Ferguson was busily working through the narrative following Cakir’s card. “It cost us the game because if you get a player sent off and he deserves to be sent off the reaction from your players is, 'Oh, you stupid bugger’. But you still don’t lose your composure.’’
United’s minds were so scrambled by what they saw as injustice that they failed to concentrate. “We lost our composure for that 10-minute period. We were all over the place.’’
Ferguson was also distracted, initially lambasting the fourth official and then standing on the touchline calling on the fans to generate even more noise. “I was angry. There’s nothing wrong with losing your temper for the right reasons and those were the right reasons. I mirrored what every person in that ground felt. Knowing the damage it was going to do to my players, I think I did the right thing.”
His tactical decision-making in that critical period was not flawed. Ferguson pulled Welbeck back to the left to keep the shape. The real problem was the players’ emotional mindset. Ferguson should have focused on addressing that rather than the fans’ decibel level.
Mourinho acted. “Madrid did brilliantly bringing Luka Modric on,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think they would have brought Modric on if we’d still had 11 men. That 10-minute period was the killer for the boys.’’ Modric and Ronaldo scored in quick succession. “Then we lost the second goal and we were brilliant. We realised that we needed to do something here and the players started playing again.
“We could have scored five goals in the last 15 minutes. If we’d scored a second, we probably would have won it. I think Jose said that himself. There was all this issue with Real about [Iker] Casillas. But Casillas wouldn’t have saved the shots that the boy [Diego] López saved. Going out to Danny Welbeck, going down at Robin van Persie, coming out and whacking [Nemanja] Vidic in the head. Casillas isn’t that type of goalkeeper and that saved them, having that type of goalkeeper. We know we were the better team.
“When you’re at this club a long time, it is not always silver linings. There are always dark moments and bad days. In general we recover very well and we’ll do that again.”
- Henry Winter, Telegraph.co.uk