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Ferguson defends Ronaldo handball

Ronaldo inexplicably handled from a Wayne Rooney corner
Ronaldo needlessly handled from a Rooney corner

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson defended Cristiano Ronaldo after the winger's bizarre sending off in the 1-0 win at Manchester City.

The 23-year-old received his second booking when he inexplicably handballed Wayne Rooney's corner after 68 minutes.

"He tried to stop the ball from hitting his face," said Ferguson.

"He thought he had heard a whistle, he got a little push as well and it is not as if he punched the ball. The crowd played a part and he got sent off."

However, City boss Mark Hughes agreed with referee Howard Webb's decision, and added: "I don't think the referee had any choice. I thought he was going to catch it at one point.

"It was a clear handball. It was a soft sending off but clearly a second bookable offence.

"I don't know what reason he will give for doing it but if he says the ball was going to hit him in the face why didn't he head it?"

Ronaldo had already been booked for a foul on Shaun Wright-Phillips and had been fortunate to avoid further punishment for applauding the referee after that incident.

Interview - Man Utd assistant manager Mike Phelan

But Ferguson refused to criticise the Portugal star over his behaviour, choosing instead to praise United's response to being reduced to 10 men at Eastlands.

"Sometimes you have to overcome things and we overcame a big handicap. We proved ourselves," stated Ferguson.

"In the first half we were magnificent. We completely dominated the match. City stepped up their game for a bit in the second half but weren't really a big threat.

"Then we were left with the last 20 minutes playing with 10 men.

"It's not easy but we never looked in danger. We had to soak up some pressure but we did that very well."

The win keeps United in touch with Chelsea and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table and Ferguson was pleased to see his side clinch what was only their third away league victory of the season.


"The issue was we needed three points because we are behind Liverpool and Chelsea. We are chasing and needed to win to get ourselves nearer," said Ferguson.

"We have had a significant result and we hope it makes a difference.

"The focus was very good. I think in some away games this season our second half has been disappointing. We lost to Liverpool and threw three points away at Everton. That's a focus problem and we were a lot better here."

Hughes put his side's poor start to the game down to their efforts in their Uefa Cup win over Schalke 04 on Thursday but was pleased with the response after the break.

"We did not have the spring in our step that we needed," conceded Hughes. "United were a lot sharper on the ball in the first half. We stood off them and showed them too much respect.

Hughes plays down Ronaldo dismissal

"We came up a little bit short - we could not get hold of the game. The energy that I have seen from us in recent weeks was not there.

"In the second half we forced the game better. On occasions we broke well and on other occasions we were knocked over a little bit too readily by some United players.

"Overall we are disappointed because we haven't won the match but in the second half we needed a response and we got it."

City actually created less after Ronaldo's dismissal and Hughes felt it allowed United to get themselves organised defensively.

"The sending off didn't help us as much as people imagined because they were able to get two banks of four very quickly behind the ball," he explained.

"We weren't able to break them down and create chances because it was very difficult to get people in space in good areas."

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see also
Man City 0-1 Man Utd
30 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Phelan delighted with hard-fought win
30 Nov 08 |  Match of the Day
Hughes plays down Ronaldo dismissal
30 Nov 08 |  Match of the Day
Premier League as it happened
30 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Sunday's football photos
30 Nov 08 |  Football
Schalke 0-2 Man City
27 Nov 08 |  Europe
Villarreal 0-0 Man Utd
25 Nov 08 |  Europe

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