O’Neill: He should have sent off Vidic. It was a mistake from a fine ref
MARTIN O’NEILL was incensed by referee Phil Dowd’s decision not to dismiss United Nemanja Vidic for tugging Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor’s shirt and bringing him to the ground, which gave Villa the penalty which James Milner converted.
“It was plain for all to see,” O’Neill said. “It was an inexplicable decision. There was a goalscoring opportunity in the penalty area. It was a mistake from an otherwise very fine referee who’s got it wrong. I’ve spoken to Phil. In two or three days it’s all forgotten and we’re losing finalists. But anybody would really be wondering how he could come to any other conclusion.”
Villa defender Richard Dunne, whose error allowed Dimitar Berbatov to break forMichael Owen’s equaliser, suggested that the course of the game might not have been affected by Vidic’s dismissal – since United managed to hold on for a draw with 10-men at Villa Park earlier this season. “Richard’s a great lad and I totally disagree with him,” O’Neill countered. “That’s a different game. Just because someone plays with 10 men at one particular match ... you are talking about Wembley and all that goes with Wembley. I wouldn’t have liked to play against us with 10 men.”
The tragedy of the afternoon was Owen’s, though. Starting his second match since 19 December, he scored his first goal with Capello present since he has signed for United, only to pull up with hamstring trouble as he chased a ball from Berbatov in the latter stages of the first half. “It’s unfortunate I got injured,” Owen said. “It was great to be involved and score but that’s partly soured by injury.”
Alex Ferguson said the number of successes had not made him enjoy them any less. “We enjoy everything,” he said. “If we can win something that’s why we win it. Any trophy is good for us.” He also paid tribute to Antonio Valencia – whose partnership with Wayne Rooney is proving lucrative. “It was a brilliant header,” Ferguson said of the goal.
Meanwhile, Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross has been called into the England squad for the friendly match against Egypt on Wednesday. Theo Walcott and Stewart Downing were also named in Fabio Capello’s squad but Joe Cole was left of for the international at Wembley.