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Mar 8, 2013

Ferguson: Nani red 'not easy to take'

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has said it is "hard to keep your faith" in refereeing after speaking for the first time since Nani's controversial red card against Real Madrid in the Champions League.

• Blog: Reasons to be optimistic

Ferguson was visibly furious after seeing Nani handed a straight red card by referee Cuneyt Cakir for a high challenge on Real defender Alvaro Arbeloa in the second leg of their last-16 tie.

The decision helped the visitors at Old Trafford mount a turnaround as goals from Luka Modric and ex-Red Devils forward Cristiano Ronaldo turned the game on its head and booked their place in the quarter-finals of the competition.

As Ferguson was too "distraught" to speak with the press after the defeat, assistant manager Mike Phelan reflected on a decision that was "very harsh, and incredible at that moment in the game".

The Scot has now voiced his disappointment at the call, while drawing upon what he feels were previous injustices suffered by United in the competition - after Rafael was sent off against Bayern Munich in 2010 and Paul Scholes saw a goal ruled out for offside versus Porto in 2004.

Ferguson said: "It's hard to keep your faith when you see what's happened the last few years. It's the third time we've been knocked out because of that.

"It's not easy to take but we're Manchester United and we have to get on with it. We now have an important issue of an FA Cup tie on Sunday.

"My job is to galvanise the troops, who were fantastic on Tuesday. So were the fans. We owe them a good performance."

Ferguson, though, has plainly never forgotten the past incidents.

"That's three European Cups we've been knocked out of due to refereeing decisions,'' said Ferguson. "We would have won two of them. I have absolutely no doubt about that.''

Ferguson has still not got over Cakir's decision, having opted not to attend the mandatory post-match press conference immediately after the game for fear his temper might boil over.

"I was angry,'' he said. "There's nothing wrong with losing your temper for the right reasons. I mirrored what every person in that ground felt. Knowing the damage it was going to do to my players, I did the right thing.''

The situation was not helped by the reactions of Alvaro Arbeloa to being caught, nor Real skipper Sergio Ramos, who raced across to demand the Turkish referee take action.

"Arbeloa wasn't that bad,'' said Ferguson. "He didn't stay down too long. Ramos was the one that maybe influenced the referee. A couple of their players did apologise (for the result) and Ronaldo was great. He came into the dressing room and sat with the players.''

And, strangely, though the loss of skipper Iker Casillas was supposed to be a massive negative for Mourinho's team, Ferguson believed it actually worked to their advantage.

"Casillas wouldn't have saved the shots Diego Lopez did; going out to Danny Welbeck, going down at Robin van Persie's feet, coming out and whacking Nemanja Vidic in the head,'' said Ferguson. "Casillas isn't that type of goalkeeper. Lopez saved them.''

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