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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 12:12 GMT
Handbags at Stamford Bridge
By Francis Keogh

Here we go again - two Premiership giants go head to head in a crunch clash and the fall-out makes more headlines than the match itself.

For the record Chelsea drew 0-0 with Manchester United in their Carling Cup semi-final, first leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

But the media had a field day on Thursday after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho accused his opposite number Sir Alex Ferguson of trying to influence the referee.

Throw in a mass pitchside dispute, and before you know it we have a Battle of the Bridge on our hands.

But examining the evidence, it appears more like an extraordinary case of handbags at 10 paces...

(Our unofficial handbag ratings below are marked out of 10)

THE TUNNEL OF LOVE?

If jealous Jose is to be believed, the evil Fergie let referee Neale Barry use his hairdryer at half-time, or something.

Barry, clearly a fan of the classic 1970s children's show Mister Ben, allegedly came out of his dressing room a different man.

The sweet nothings Fergie uttered to the man in black have not been revealed, but Sir Alex is certainly a long-time admirer.

Barry, you may remember, was the man who helped end Reading's promotion hopes last season when the ball bounced off him and Norwich scored a crucial goal.

After that Reading match, Ferguson said: "He apologised - I'd like to see more of that. I've got 100% respect for Neale Barry."

TOUCHLINE DUST-UP

There are probably more punches thrown at the Quakers' annual meeting.

Most of the players squared up to each other, and then started...pushing. How manly.

Admittedly, Ronaldo did aim a blow, or was it a bow, at Drogba. But British boxing champ Ricky Hatton can rest easy - the lightweight winger's stepovers are more dangerous.

United's Quinton Fortune had to be held back, yet when the combustible Wayne Rooney is acting as peacemaker, you know there's no need for a police investigation.

MOURINHO'S WHINGE

Smiling Mourinho warmly greeted Ferguson before and after the match.

There was even what you might call a pat on the head.

Actually, make that two pats on the head. And quite patronising, you might argue.

Then the former Porto boss launched into an astonishing post-match rant where he accused Fergie of having an apparently not-so-quiet word in Barry's ear.

"The referee controlled the game in one way during the first half but in the second they had dozens of free-kicks," claimed the charmer.

Second-half stats
Free-kicks - Chelsea 10. Manchester United 9.


WHAT IS HANDBAGS? (Oxford English Dictionary)

Colloquial term, chiefly British, especially in Association Football.

A confrontation, especially, one which is ineffectual or histrionic; originally and chiefly (replacing pistols) in phrases alluding to a duel, as handbags at dawn (also at 10 paces, etc).




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Interview: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho




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