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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 10, 2006

Ferguson questions referees' approach to Chelsea

Sir Alex Ferguson has waded into the row between Chelsea and Graham Poll by questioning whether Jose Mourinho's side are receiving preferential treatment from the football authorities.

The United manager said it was 'absolutely ludicrous' that referees' chief Keith Hackett is to meet Mourinho because of the dispute, when he has not met other leading managers.

Ferguson, whose side meet their leading title rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford at the end of the month, also praised Poll as the best referee in the Premiership.

He said: 'Now that Keith Hackett is meeting Jose Mourinho, what is going on in this world? Does he ever go and meet Arsene Wenger or Rafael Benitez or this old guy here?

'Is the preference going out to Chelsea because they have had a bad decision against them? I think it's absolutely ludicrous.'

Ferguson also ridiculed suggestions that Poll might have it in for Chelsea - a claim suggested by Ashley Cole after last Sunday's defeat at Tottenham in which John Terry was sent off by the official.

The United boss pointed out Poll was the referee in Chelsea's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on September 30 and should have had Claude Makelele sent off for fouling Juan Pablo Angel as he homed in on goal.

Ferguson said sarcastically: 'He must have [it in for Chelsea] because he sent Makelele off in that Aston Villa game - or did he?'

He added: 'No, he should have sent Makelele off in that Aston Villa game but didn't, they could have lost that game and had been missing Makelele for three matches. That maybe would have made a difference.'

Asked whether he would like Poll to be in charge for Chelsea's visit on November 26, Ferguson said he was concerned the row might affect the appointment.

He said: 'I would in a way but with all this controversy I don't know whether it would be a good thing.

'Graham Poll without question is the best referee we have got. Yes he has got an arrogance and a cockiness about him at time but when our players have got it we think it's good, when referees have it we think he's a big-headed so and so.

'We have had terrible decisions from Graham Poll in the past and so have other clubs but that is because referees can make mistakes.

'But he is the best at making the big decisions and that's why he gets the big games.'

Ferguson also backed his former skipper Roy Keane's claims that many current players are divers and cheats - and revealed United had made Cristiano Ronaldo change his behaviour after his arrival from Portugal.

He said: 'There is too much of that. We try our best to curb it, but there are some who go over the top.

'You have seen how Ronaldo at our club has developed and improved simply because he is getting older and the club talk to him about it and that's the only way forward.

'Some are habitual divers that are never going to change no matter what their manager says to them.'

Ferguson highlighted the incident two seasons ago when Wayne Rooney was sent off for shoving Bolton's Tal Ben Haim in the face, who reacted theatrically.

'The referees are the ones who can best sort it all but unfortunately they find it hard to prove a player has dived intentionally, that's the biggest problem,' he said.

'If you look at when Wayne Rooney got a three-match ban with Ben Haim, Ben Haim got off for a ridiculous dive.

'The way they go down and roll about it can put referees off their first impression of what actually happened.'