|ESPNsoccernet: UEFA Champions League|
Sir Alex Ferguson accused Bayern Munich's players of resorting to underhand tactics as Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League on Wednesday night.
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Ferguson claimed Bayern deliberately attempted to injure Wayne Rooney, who started the match despite an ankle problem, and persuaded the referee, Nicola Rizzoli, to send off Rafael da Silva, which proved to be the turning point of the match.
United, who won 3-2 on the night but went out on the away goals rule after drawing 4-4 on aggregate, appeared to be cruising through to the semi-finals when they led 3-0 after 40 minutes thanks to one goal from Darron Gibson and a Nani brace.
But Ivica Olic slotted home just before the break for Louis Van Gaal's side and Rafael was then dismissed for a second booking early in the second half. A stunning volley from Arjen Robben saw the visitors progress.
Ferguson was furious about the manner in which the Bayern players had put pressure on the referee to show Rafael a second yellow card after tugging back Franck Ribery.
"The young boy showed a bit of inexperience, but they got him sent off, everyone sprinted towards the referee - typical Germans," he said. "They were never getting through that tie. With 11 men, we had no problem."
Asked if he felt the Germans had targeted Rooney's problematic ankle, which was supposed to sideline him for two to three weeks, Ferguson said: "I think that's obvious."
"I don't think there was anything serious, but there were a couple of challenges. We expected that, and the referee should have handled it."
Ferguson's allegations were met with a swift rebuttal from Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, who was also unimpressed by the United manager's assertion that the Germans would not have gone through if their hosts had retained 11 players, or claims that the visiting team targeted Rooney.
"I thought England was noted for fairness,'' Van Gaal said. "I have been confronted with three comments. It is not what I call fair play. I do not share Sir Alex's opinion. Control is part of being a professional footballer. Every player must know his job.
"If you pick up one yellow card, a second means a sending off. Every player should know that and it was a yellow card offence. It was the player who made the foul. As for United winning with 11, we will never know that, neither Sir Alex nor me, because this game will not be played again.
"It is easy to say these things after a loss.''
It took a wonder strike from Arjen Robben to send them through, United not having the energy to mount any kind of response.
"It is hard to digest something like that,'' Ferguson said. "It was a top performance. In one way you could say we have thrown it away; in another you could argue we were very unlucky.''
Ferguson immediately set his side the task of winning their final five Premier League games to try and exert some pressure on title favourites Chelsea.
However, it looks like they will be starting that quest at Blackburn on Sunday without 34-goal Wayne Rooney, who aggravated his ankle injury early in the contest after Ferguson had decided playing the forward was a risk worth taking.
"He got a knock which was similar to last week,'' Ferguson said. "It is a burst blood vessel below the ankle. He won't be out for too long.''
After claiming that Rooney had "no chance'' of being involved on Wednesday, Ferguson revealed that the about-turn was only confirmed on the morning of the game, once he had spoken to medical staff about a work-out Rooney had put himself through.
"He had a training session yesterday and did everything we could have asked of him,'' he said. "The medical people thought there was no danger, other than he might feel it in the second-half, so we felt it was worth the risk.
"Unfortunately he went over on the ankle again. There were a couple of challenges on him and I don't think he got any protection from the referee but it is not too serious.
"I don't think he will be ready for Sunday but he should be available for next week.''