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Ferguson fires back at Grant in refs row

in English Premier League, UEFA Champions League 15 May 2008


Alex Ferguson has brushed off Avram Grant's claims that biased refereeing helped Manchester United clinch the Premier League title at Chelsea's expense.

Grant faces possibly disciplinary action from the Football Association after questioning the integrity of Steve Bennett, the referee who took charge of United's final league match against Wigan on Sunday.

United won that match 2-0 but things may have been different if Bennett had awarded Wigan an early penalty or sent Paul Scholes off when the game was still goalless, as television replays suggested he should have done.

Chelsea's manager Grant reacted to those incidents by suggesting that some English referees could be influenced in their handling of matches. Grant also said he was glad next week's Champions League final between the two clubs in Moscow would be refereed by a non-English official.

Ferguson said he had not been surprised by Grant's outburst and claimed that, in reality, his side had suffered far more than they had benefited from dubious decisions this season.

“We feel we didn't get many decisions during the season,” said the Scot. “I could go on and on (about decisions that didn't go our way throughout the season).

“Maybe when we went to Chelsea (and lost 2-1 in a match that kept the title battle alive) we should have been champions by then.”

Ferguson insisted that his United players would handle next week's occasion even though they were younger and less experienced than some of Chelsea's players.

“We know how to handle it,” he said. “Chelsea have more experienced players, much more than our own team because we have young players.”

United head for Moscow boosted by the news that Rio Ferdinand has signed a new five-year contract at Old Trafford.

Ferdinand, fellow defender Wes Brown and midfielder Michael Carrick all agreed new contracts in April.

And now Ferdinand, 29, and Brown 28, have completed formalities meaning they could end their careers with the Premier League champions.

Ferguson said it was “terrific” that England defender Ferdinand, who joined from Leeds for 30 million pounds in 2002, had signed.

“Rio's contribution this season has been a major factor in our outstanding defensive performance and I am delighted he has signed a new contract,” Ferguson said. “The longer Rio has been at this club the better he has become.”

Chelsea have also been given a boost with captain John Terry insisting that he will not require protective strapping on his injured elbow during the final.

Terry is back in training after recovering sufficiently from the dislocated elbow he suffered in Chelsea's final league game against Bolton on Sunday, which finished in a 1-1 draw.

“My elbow is all right,” he said. “There is just a bit of strapping in case I fall and jar it.

“The last couple of days it has been getting better and hopefully I am going to train without the strapping.

“I have full range of movement. It is a little stiff when I wake up in the mornings but when the physios do a bit of work on it and I do some swimming, it frees right up.”

Terry is already looking ahead to facing United in the first all-English European Cup final and says Chelsea will go into the match in great form, despite their 1-1 draw with Bolton.

“We have lost out (in this competition) in the past against Liverpool and Monaco and I really don't want to sit back and say we have thrown it away again,” Terry said.

“We have the chance of a lifetime – a great squad of players and in great form at the moment.

“Manchester United have been in good form themselves but we are at the top of our game, we have everyone fit, and we need to take the game to them.”




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