Ferguson blast hopes to hide United's shortcomings

The Manchester United manager launches a blistering attack on referee Alan Wiley, accusing the official of "not being fit enough" to do his job.

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Sir Alex Ferguson launched a blistering attack on referee Alan Wiley, accusing the official of "not being fit enough" to do his job. Wiley, the fourth official for last month's controversial Manchester derby, was in charge at Old Trafford yesterday as an injury-time own goal from Anton Ferdinand rescued United a point against Sunderland in a 2-2 draw. Ferguson claimed Wiley had not played the correct amount of added time because he had failed to add on an additional minute to the four already signalled once United scored. "I was disappointed with the referee," said the United boss. "He didn't add on any time for the goal. He played four minutes and two seconds. He was also walking up the pitch for the second goal needing a rest. He was not fit enough for a game of that standard. "The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He was not fit. It is an indictment of our game. You see referees abroad who are as fit as butchers' dogs. We have some who are fit. He wasn't fit. "He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous." Ferguson twice headed to the touchline during the second half to make his feelings known about controversial decisions. At one point, after he felt Anderson was denied a penalty, he jabbed his finger at fourth official Mike Dean and then pointed angrily to the pitch. Whatever the merits of Ferguson's argument, he will have succeeded in taking the spotlight away from his side, who were indebted to Patrice Evra's deflected shot after they had produced probably their worst performance of the season, with Ben Foster again at fault for the second-half header from Kenwyne Jones that looked like being the winner. "It was a soft goal to lose," admitted Ferguson. "Our passing was very poor in the first half. In the end we needed to show some great qualities to get something out of the game on a day when we played really badly." In front of the England coach Fabio Capello, who names his squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine and Belarus tomorrow, Darren Bent gave his side the perfect start, driving home his seventh goal of the season after just seven minutes. United created nothing in reply until after half-time when a brief flurry brought them level, Dimitar Berbatov finding the net with a magnificent overhead kick. The visitors rallied and Jones got above Foster to nod home Andy Reid's cross, a goal that seemed certain to gain Sunderland their first Old Trafford win since 1968. But the game turned when the former United winger Kieran Richardson was sent off for kicking the ball away, a decision that angered the Sunderland players, but not manager Steve Bruce. "It was stupid," said Bruce. "It is hard enough to defend here with 11 players. These things happen in the heat of the moment but it could have cost us the game." United used the dismissal to have one last assault at the visitors' goal, with Ferdinand the unlucky man as he deflected Evra's shot past Craig Gordon. "It is totally disappointing," said Bruce. "I don't know what the stat is for the number of times Manchester United have done that but it is what makes this club what it is I suppose. "It just proves you have to go down to the wire. Even when they don't play well, they always seem to get something out of it. "That is what he has brought to the club. They never give in."

* PA Sport