Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Ferguson admits Manchester United's final fortune

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted his team were fortunate not to have had a man sent off in the Carling Cup final.

Wayne Rooney came off the bench to score the winning header, his 28th goal of the season, as United beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Wembley.

But controversy surrounded a penalty awarded to Villa in the fourth minute when United defender Nemanja Vidic brought down Gabriel Agbonlahor.

James Milner scored from the spot but referee Phil Dowd failed to give Vidic even a yellow card, even though he was the last defender and Agbonlahor was through on goal.

But while Ferguson said Vidic "was probably lucky," Villa manager Martin O'Neill was left fuming.

O'Neill said: "It was plain for all to see. It was an inexplicable decision. I don't understand it. It's a goalscoring opportunity. He's felled in the penalty area. It's straightforward from an otherwise fine referee who has got it wrong. It's as simple as that.

"In a couple of days it's forgotten. We're losing finalists in a fine game of football, but it's a major point in the game.

"We played some really great football, some great performances. But you can't keep a team like Manchester United at bay all the time and they came roaring back in the second half."

In fact, United were level after 13 minutes, Michael Owen sweeping home the equaliser after Dimitar Berbatov and Richard Dunne had tangled in the area.

Unfortunately, Owen's final was shortlived, however, after he suffered a hamstring injury and was replaced by Rooney after 41 minutes.

Ferguson said: "He (Owen) did really well for us and it was a good performance from him. It's maybe our fault too. He's not had a lot of minutes recently and that soft pitch didn't help him. It's a bad blow for us."

Owen's misfortune only gave Rooney the chance to write another chapter in what is becoming a stupendous season.

His 74th-minute header from Antonio Valencia's cross was his fifth consecutive headed goal. In fact, seven out of his last eight goals have been headers. Quite a statistic considering he had scored only four headed goals in his career before this season.

Ferguson said: "The header wasn't a brilliant header, not great pace on it but it was well placed just under the bar. The goalkeeper had work to do to get to it. He's in that sort of form. He's scoring so many vital goals for us. We should have put it beyond doubt the opportunities we had.

"In the main we were the better team but credit to Aston Villa's performance. In the last 10 minutes when they started shoving up that big brigade of theirs it was like the Alamo. They had a go. Dunne had a back post header and missed altogether. You need a bit of luck in these situations."

O'Neill also saluted Rooney, who also hit the post with another header, saying: "He's a world class player and arguably in the top three players in the world. It only made it more exciting when he came on."

Ferguson, however, was more interested in looking forward to the next trophy, whether it be a 12th Premier League title or his third Champions League trophy.

He said: "We show time and time again this club has got the determination. They don't give in. It's a good quality to have and you'll see that in the last part of the season.

"It was a good result for us on Saturday with Chelsea losing. Arsenal are back in the frame with the easiest programme on paper. It will be an interesting run-in."

And on winning his fifth league cup he added: "You've got to enjoy it, that's why we are in it. You have to accept what you can get in this life. Winning this trophy is special to us. Any trophy is good.

"You're in this game to win and I appreciate everything we have achieved as a club and I appreciate the luck I've carried. That's important.

"I've lost finals and it's not easy when you lose a final. The only way you can enjoy Wembley is winning."

And on the trophy tally he added, tongue in cheek: "Hopefully it will be 33 this season. Might be too old to wait for next season."

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