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Ferguson stokes angry United´s sense of injustice

in English Premier League 27 Apr 2008

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Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced Manchester United's sense of injustice at their 2-1 defeat against Chelsea will help carry them to the Premier League title.

United face a nerve-jangling finale to the title race after Michael Ballack's late penalty at Stamford Bridge moved Chelsea level on points with the champions.

Ferguson's team can still retain the crown if they win their last two matches against West Ham and Wigan, but United departed west London in a storm of acrimony that stemmed entirely from their anger at letting Chelsea off the hook.

When Wayne Rooney punished Ricardo Carvalho's error in the 57th minute to cancel out Ballack's 45th minute header, United had one hand on the trophy.

Then Michael Carrick handled Michael Essien's cross with four minutes left and Ballack stroked home the winner from the spot. Although United's superior goal difference still makes them title favourites, they now have to win it the hard way.

Their frustration boiled over after the final whistle. Patrice Evra, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, John O'Shea and Gerard Pique were involved in an altercation with stewards and ground-staff after they refused to leave the pitch when asked to stop their post-match warm-down, while Rio Ferdinand had to apologise after accidently kicking a female steward as he lashed out in anger at the result.

While his players were losing their cool, Ferguson was hardly any more philosophical. The Scot claimed Alan Wiley's assistant was wrong to flag for a penalty for Carrick's clear handball and insisted it was a decision that could wreck United's season.

Despite his own rage, Ferguson will now try to channel United's frustration to get a positive reaction in Tuesday's Champions League semi-final second leg against Barcelona and the two remaining league matches.

“It's still in our hands. The players and the support are really fired up for the next game. Hopefully we can get the result we want,” he told MUTV.

“In fairness, Chelsea were the better team in the first half. Sometimes, coming out of a European game, it takes a while to get it right. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for us.

“But if we're not getting the decisions we deserve then we're going to have to perform really well.

“The penalty was absolutely diabolical. It is a major decision. Granted, it hit his hand. But he has not lifted his hand above his shoulders, above his head, anything like that.

“It is going straight to Rio Ferdinand. The referee should have seen that rather than the linesman. If we're not going to get those decisions then we are under pressure.”

As if the defeat wasn't bad enough, Ferguson will also have to wait anxiously for fitness bulletins about Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic.

Rooney was replaced after taking a bang on the hip while scoring, while Vidic had to be stretchered off following a clash with Didier Drogba that knocked a tooth into his lip.

United are stumbling towards the finish line after winning just one of their last four league games, but Chelsea are unbeaten in 19 matches and deserved their victory against a cautious, subdued United.

Their fate is still in United's hands, but Grant is confident they can go onto win the title.

“I am optimistic but we need to win our last two games and hope Manchester lose one point,” he said. “If you come to this stage and you are not optimistic you should not be in sport.

“My players were very competitive. They wanted to win. When you concede a goal like we did it is a little bit disappointing but we were full of energy.

“They wanted to win the game and football is a game of emotion. We competed against Arsenal and against United.”

Chelsea's last two matches are at Newcastle and at home to Bolton, but before that they face Liverpool in Europe.

Grant fears they will be without Frank Lampard again as the England midfielder mourns his mother's death on Thursday.

“Football is exciting but there are things that are more important,” he said. “I say to the players that on the way to excellency you need to be human, so I think we need to respect what has happened to him.

“We will leave the decision about Wednesday to him. I will respect any decision he makes.”

With or without Lampard, Chelsea have ensured the title race will go down to the wire.

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