Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said a last-minute penalty decision that went his team’s way in its Champions League win over Chelsea may have been payback for perceived past misfortunes at Stamford Bridge.
Referee Alberto Mallenco rejected Chelsea’s penalty appeals last night when Patrice Evra felled Ramires. Wayne Rooney’s goal gave United a 1-0 victory in the first match of the two-game quarterfinal. The second leg is April 12 in Manchester.
“Somebody said it could have been a penalty,” Ferguson told reporters. “If it was, it would be the first decision we got here in seven years against them so I think we’re due one. I don’t feel guilty about that at all.”
Ferguson is serving a five-game touchline ban in English soccer after he criticized referee Martin Atkinson’s performance in United’s Premier League loss to Chelsea on March 1. Ferguson said after that game that Chelsea’s David Luiz should have been red-carded and that the Blues got away with too many fouls.
Last night’s match was the first meeting between the teams in Europe’s elite club competition since United beat Chelsea on penalty kicks in the 2008 final in Moscow to win its third European Cup title.
The winner of the quarterfinal is likely to meet Schalke in the final four. The German team won 5-2 at defending champion Inter Milan two days ago.
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said his team had been denied what was a “clear” penalty when Ramires tumbled under Evra’s challenge in the area.
“In the last minute I understand it’s not easy to give a penalty; you need to have personality, courage and so on,” Ancelotti told reporters. “Not always do referees have these kinds of skills.”
Rooney, who scored a hat trick in United’s 4-2 win at West Ham five days ago, guided the ball into the corner of the goal in the 24th minute after Ryan Giggs ran onto a long pass and pulled the ball back for the England striker.
Chelsea’s best chance came when Didier Drogba and record 50 million-pound ($81.6 million) signing Fernando Torres combined just before halftime.
Drogba crossed from the left and Torres, unmarked in front of goal, could only direct the ball against the far post. Frank Lampard’s shot on the rebound was cleared off the line by Evra. It was only the third time Drogba and Torres were paired together since the Spaniard joined from Liverpool in January. He’s now gone 617 minutes without a goal for the Blues.
“We have to have confidence” in Torres, Ancelotti said. “He has to have confidence and keep going, and he’ll score.”
While Chelsea’s strikers misfired, Rooney is returning to form as United’s bid to win three trophies reaches a crucial stage, Ferguson said. The 25-year-old had scored only nine goals in 31 games for United this season before his three at West Ham.
“We’re pleased with his performance,” Ferguson said of Rooney. “He’s now more regular in his goal scoring which in the second half of the season is going to be important to us.”
United leads the Premier League by seven points and meets Manchester City in the F.A. Cup semifinals on April 16. Ferguson said he’s told his squad to focus on playing at their best and not on landmarks like a repeat of United’s treble trophy-winning success of 1999.
“I’ve never thought about the treble,” Ferguson said. “We’re in every competition and we’ll try our best. When you go out on that field, you have to win the game. That’s the attitude of Manchester United. We have to do that.”