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Sir Alex hails European refs for Ron protection

Sir Alex Ferguson has praised Italian referee Roberto Rosetti for his handling of Tuesday night's Champions League clash between Manchester United and Villarreal, happy that Cristiano Ronaldo was finally handed a degree of protection.

The United manager welcomed the red card shown to Spain international Joan Capdevila late in the game for a high challenge on the Portuguese star and suggested that a Premier League official may not have come to the same decision.

Sir Alex had spoken before the game about the aggressive approach shown to the winger, especially after the rough ride he was given by Aston Villa on Saturday, and believes he was right that continental referees would clamp down on such behaviour.

Ferguson said: "The referee was very fair and strict with both teams. He [Capdevila] may not have got that red card in England - so there is different interpretation of the physical aspect of the game in European matches.'

"The systematic fouling on him is what is happening in our game [Premier League] now. That is a tactic. Someone fouls him, then someone else has another foul. The referee thinks he is diving all the time, and the crowd are screaming. So that is the problem."

Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini insists that Ronaldo cannot be allowed to play with freedom, saying: "It was not a rough game, and you have to challenge Ronaldo.''

Ferguson revealed Wayne Rooney had apologised to him for going to ground too easily, believing he had won a penalty. Rooney looked to be favourite for the ball before hitting the deck. The striker's action incensed the crowd but Rooney was not booked for simulation.

Ferguson said: "I think Wayne anticipated the challenge, because he was expecting a penalty kick. It is unusual for him to do that. I have seen it, and he has apologised to me. I think he has been watching (Robert) Pires too much.

"At least Wayne apologised to the Villarreal players. You would never see Pires do that.''

Ferguson was at a loss to explain why United and Villarreal have played out four successive 0-0 draws.

Ferguson said: "It is amazing in these four games we have not had a goal. I bet the public are hoping we do not meet in (the final in) Rome. I do not know how that is, because we are an attacking side - and Villarreal have a great record themselves.

"It is unusual for four games to end up 0-0. I thought we carried a bigger threat than them. We had better opportunities in the match.''

United finish their group games by hosting Aalborg next month, while Villarreal travel to Celtic. Pellegrini conceded that the reigning champions - now 18 matches unbeaten in Europe - will finish top.

"They are not going to lose to Aalborg - that's for certain,'' he said. "Our objective, though, is complete - and that is to qualify. However, we did notice the absence of some of our offensive players.''

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