Saturday, April 28, 2007

FERGUSON HITS BACK

MANCHESTER, England, April 28, 2007 (AFP) -
Sir Alex Ferguson on Friday launched a stinging attack on Jose Mourinho in the wake of the Chelsea manager's claims that Manchester United are being favoured by referees during the Premiership title run-in. United manager Ferguson has accused Mourinho of pursuing a calculated strategy to increase pressure on match officials and believes the Portuguese has been lucky to escape punishment by the FA and UEFA.

The Chelsea manager triggered the latest round of controversy when he insisted last weekend that United should have conceded a penalty in their draw with Middlesbrough while his own side were unjustly denied a spot-kick in a stalemate at Newcastle.

United winger Cristiano Ronaldo responded by suggesting his countryman was playing mind games - prompting Mourinho to label the player a "liar" if he was claiming United had not benefited from a series of decisions.

And that proved to be a spat too far for Ferguson who reeled off a roll-call of Mourinho's misdemeanours before claiming his rival is undermining the game's authorities.

"Jose seems to be on some sort of some personal crusade about regulations and honesty and suspicions within the game," the United manager said.

"Everyone has an opinion. Ronaldo has an opinion, Carlos Querioz has an opinion, but that doesn't mean to say they are liars.

"He was on about us changing the regulations but I'd like to know who's changing the regulations? Is it us? Or the FA? Or the Premier League?

"I think the FA and the Premier League have let him off lightly because what he is saying is our game is suspicious and I think that is wrong. I'm surprised there has been no action against him, he's been going on and on and on."

Mourinho has a track record of controversy including the allegation that Swedish referee Anders Frisk visited the Barcelona dressing room during a Champions League clash between the two sides in 2005 which led to UEFA banning the manager from having contact with his players in the next round.

And the Chelsea manager's suggestion that Liverpool would target Blues striker Didier Drogba in this week's Champions League semi-final also drew an angry response from Ferguson.

"He has accused Barcelona in the past, he's accused the Swedish referee (Anders Frisk), he put the German referee (Markus Merk) under pressure the other night by suggesting Liverpool were going to hunt down Drogba," he added.

"That was an insult to Liverpool. Jesus Christ, he's gone on and on and on, it's a rant all the time now.

"I don't know what it (his motivation) is. But I don't think it's fair to the game itself. In some people's eyes he's a hero, you know. I don't know whether he is a villain or a hero because there's a confusion in the way he goes about it.

"According to reports, he thumbed his nose at UEFA the other day by hiding in a laundry bin to do a team talk (when banned from the dressing room by UEFA). Is that breaking regulations? I don't know.

"We have had four penalties awarded against us at Old Trafford but there have been none at Stamford Bridge. But the biggest fear for us now is by citing the fact that we are not allowed to get penalties against us at Old Trafford it places a terrible pressure on the referee in future games.

"And I think that, without doubt, that was calculated by him. If we get a penalty against us in the next four games, he wins. No doubt about that, Mourinho wins that war. And I think that's wrong. So everything's calculated by him."

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