Wednesday 29 January 2020

Ferguson leaps to the defence of race-row ref Clattenburg and urges fellow bosses to follow

Ian Herbert

Manchester United and Chelsea were in a state of open warfare over the Mark Clattenburg affair, with Alex Ferguson declaring he is ready to testify in the referee's defence and that other managers should do so, in the firm belief he will not be found guilty of racially abusing John Obi Mikel during last Sunday's match at Stamford Bridge.

The United manager defended Clattenburg in the strongest possible terms, declaring no official in the modern game would "stoop" to the kind of abuse that the club claimed after the game in which the official sent off two Chelsea players, and warned that the referee may never escape the stigma of the accusation.

Ferguson, whose side face Arsenal at Old Trafford in today's lunch-time kick-off, also reinforced Arsene Wenger's claim that Chelsea should have kept their complaints private.

"I think what has happened this week is unthinkable.

" It's an accusation which, even in the heat of the moment, shouldn't be made. You can't do that," he said.

Roberto Di Matteo hit back, hinting Ferguson would be better served keeping his own affairs in order. "He likes to talk about other clubs. We tend not to, so I'll leave it up to him," Di Matteo shrugged. "It doesn't really affect me to be honest... we use this as a motivational tool."

Asked if he was prepared to stand up in Clattenburg's defence, should investigations by the English FA and police lead to action being taken, Ferguson said: "All of us."

Ferguson attacked Chelsea, stating that "most people" would agree that the club should have allowed tempers to cool before going public on their claim against Clattenburg. Initial claims that Juan Mata was verbally abused by the referee have already been dropped.

But Ferguson, who said he had asked his players if they had heard Clattenburg abuse Chelsea players and said that they had heard nothing, declared the idea of a referee indulging in such abuse was beyond the bounds of belief.

"I don't believe Mark Clattenburg would make any comments like that," he said. "I refuse to believe it. I think it's unthinkable in the modern climate. I just don't believe it -- it's as simple as that. There's no way a referee would stoop to that and I'm convinced of that.

"I've never heard of a player ever coming to me in the last 15 years saying a referee has sworn in a game. Ever. So that's where I stand. I don't believe it."

He said it should be for the FA to decide whether Chelsea should be subjected to any punishment if the allegation proves unfounded.

Ferguson said that Clattenburg had done Chelsea a favour by not issuing a red card to Fernando Torres for a high-footed tackle last Sunday.

"Mark actually does them a favour because he should have sent Torres off in the first half," Ferguson said. "By sending him off for a second yellow, Torres only misses one game, so he is free for the next two league games.

"Those next two league games could be important to Chelsea's season -- Torres might score the winner against Swansea this weekend. In a way Clattenburg has done them a favour."

(© Independent News Service)

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