Friday, January 27, 2006
Neville is being victimised, insists Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson's antipathy for the Football Association has erupted again with the claim Gary Neville is being victimised because he is a Manchester United player.
Ferguson is furious that Neville has been put in the dock for his wild celebrations at Rio Ferdinand's late winner against Liverpool at Old Trafford on Sunday.The full-back has until February 10 to respond to an improper conduct charge lodged by the FA on Thursday and faces the likelihood of a heavy fine if he cannot clear his name.Soho Square officials have defended their stance, pointing out they received 'extraordinary incident' reports from referee Mike Riley and the match assessor on Monday in response to Neville's decision to celebrate Ferdinand's goal by racing 40 yards towards the corner of the pitch where the Liverpool fans were congregated before pumping his fists in an exaggerated manner and then kissing his badge. However, Ferguson is adamant his captain has been condemned to trial by media and then been singled out purely because of the club he plays for.And, to provide evidence for his claims, Ferguson cited the examples of Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher during the Merseyside derby on December 28, and Robbie Fowler's reminder to United fans of Liverpool's five European Cup wins at Eastlands earlier this month.'Absolutely no chance,' was Ferguson's blunt response when he was asked if the FA would have launched the charge had Neville played for a side other than Manchester United.'Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher ran the full length of the field with their fists raised at the Everton fans recently and not a word was said.'At Manchester City, Robbie Fowler ran past our fans showing five fingers. Our fans surged to the front and the stewards had real trouble dealing with them and not a word was said then either.'The FA compliance office only reacts when the press writes it. That is a fact and it can't be right.'You cannot be running a proper compliance office if it only reacts to what the press say. What are they doing during the week? Does nobody study videos, only read the papers. It is a problem.'In terms of Gary, all we have seen him doing is celebrating. To whom? There is no evidence, so I think the FA have a hard case to prove.' It is not the first time Ferguson has expressed dissatisfaction with the FA's disciplinary decisions.Just over 12 months ago, the United boss also came into conflict with the FA over their handling of Wayne Rooney's shove on Bolton's Tal Ben Haim, also during a Premiership game at Old Trafford.Like Neville, Rooney's misdemeanour was not spotted by the referee but the England man was subsequently banned for three games after the incident was reviewed on video.Interestingly, the last player to receive an improper conduct charge for a similar offence to Neville was from Conference South club Histon, when he celebrated a goal by revealing what was deemed to be an offensive T-shirt.The major difference between the Neville incident and that of Fowler specifically, is the intervention of the referee.Whereas Steve Bennett saw Fowler's reaction to his late goal at Eastlands and told the FA both in writing and verbally the celebration was not worthy of a yellow card, Riley, who did not see Neville, came to an alternate view when he looked at the incident again on video.'As well as the referee and the assessor reporting the incident to us, Great Manchester Police made it clear, to ourselves and the club, that they believed the the behaviour to be inappropriate and contributed to the disorder that followed the match,' confirmed an FA spokesman.Not content with just lambasting the FA, Ferguson has also condemned UEFA after the European governing body launched an official probe into Cristiano Ronaldo's 'one-fingered' gesture to Benfica fans during United's Champions League defeat in Lisbon.The young Portugal winger is facing a one-match ban for his actions when the case is heard next Thursday, by which time almost two months will have elapsed since the game itself.Photographs clearly show Ronaldo reacting as he was booed off the field and Ferguson does not believe enough account has been taken of the abuse the former Sporting Lisbon man was subjected to.'It is a surprise because it happened a couple of months ago and normally UEFA are right on the button with things like this,' he said.'The boy took a lot of abuse coming off the pitch and maybe UEFA do not see the significance of that.'Fans have always given players stick and no-one is exempt from it but these days is seems fans are allowed to do anything they like and the players must not react. That is disappointing.'