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Sir Alex Ferguson angry at referee after Man Utd defeat

Manchester United players surround referee Martin Atkinson
Manchester United players surround referee Martin Atkinson

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said he "feared the worst" when Martin Atkinson was chosen to referee his side's 2-1 defeat by Chelsea.

United lost to a controversial 80th-minute Frank Lampard penalty, given when Yuri Zhirkov was brought down by defender Chris Smalling.

"You want a fair referee - or a strong referee, anyway - and we didn't get that," said Ferguson.

"When I saw who the referee was I did fear it. I feared the worst."

Ferguson was also incensed when central defender David Luiz was not shown a second yellow card for tripping striker Wayne Rooney on the edge of the Chelsea box.

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Instead, Atkinson waved play to continue as Chelsea surged up the pitch before the Yorkshire official pointed to the penalty spot when substitute Zhirkov tumbled to the ground under Smalling's challenge.

"It was incredible. Even before that he [Luiz] had done Chicharito [Javier Hernandez] off the ball," said Ferguson.

"He'd done him late. Nothing done, the referee's in front of it.

"He does Rooney clear as day, [the referee is] six yards from it, he doesn't do anything. That changed the game.

"These are decisions that change the game. And he's going to be refereeing every week."

Atkinson refereed the corresponding fixture at Stamford Bridge last season and was criticised by Ferguson for awarding a free-kick which the Scot believed should never have been given, allowing John Terry to score the winner in a 1-0 victory.

"That's three years in a row now. It's hard to take," added Ferguson.

"The Luiz foul was six yards in front of the referee, maybe eight if we give him the benefit of the doubt, no obstructions whatsoever.

"I don't know how he [Luiz] stayed on the pitch. And the penalty was very soft. In actual fact, Chris has taken the ball and the player's left his leg in. Very soft. Amazing."

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti admitted Luiz might have been fortunate to stay on the pitch, but refused to comment on Atkinson's other decisions.

"I don't want to judge them. I don't like doing this," he said. "Luiz's performance was very good, confirming the performance he made against Fulham."

The victory moves Chelsea one place up the Premier League table to fourth but Ancelotti's side trail United by 12 points.

And the Italian conceded the gap is "too far" to close down.

David Luiz celebrates a goal
David Luiz scored his first goal since joining Chelsea in January

"We are too far from Manchester United," said Ancelotti.

"It's difficult for them to lose points in the next few games. We have to concentrate on ourselves and look not too far in the future.

"I cannot believe we are this far behind but we have to be honest. This is where we are in the table and United have played with more consistency than us."

To compound Ferguson's misery, he will now be without central defender Nemanja Vidic for Sunday's Premier League game against Liverpool.

The Serbia international defender was sent off in injury time for a second yellow card after a foul on Ramires and will serve an immediate one-match ban.

Ferguson is also without defenders Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans and he said Wes Brown will partner Smalling in central defence at Anfield.

United had taken the first-half lead at Stamford Bridge when Rooney fired in a sizzling strike from outside the box in the 29th minute but they were unable to contain a second-half resurgence from the home side.

But Ferguson felt his side should not have left empty-handed from south-west London.

"It was a great performance by us," he said. "We didn't deserve that. Even in the second half we made some great chances.

"Their first goal was a slack bit of defending at the back post and he took it well. I didn't fear anything, though. I thought we had every chance."

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see also
Chelsea 2-1 Man Utd
01 Mar 11 |  Premier League
Tuesday football as it happened
01 Mar 11 |  Football

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