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By ESPN Staff
Nov 30, 2008

Ferguson leaps to Ronaldo's defence

Sir Alex Ferguson defended Cristiano Ronaldo over the red card incident that has soured the week in which he is expected to be crowned European Footballer of the Year.

Ronaldo seems certain to pick up the prestigious Ballon d'Or on Tuesday but will do so having been dismissed after picking up two bookings in Manchester United's 1-0 win over Manchester City at Eastlands.

The Portugal winger had already been cautioned when he leapt for Wayne Rooney's corner midway through the second-half, then stuck his hands in the air to parry the ball instead.

It seemed a needless move and referee Howard Webb duly dismissed the 23-year-old.

But Ferguson, who is about to serve a two-match touchline ban and was keen to avoid a confrontation with Webb, felt Ronaldo was unlucky.

''He was trying to protect himself from the ball hitting him in the face,'' said the United boss.

''He thought he had heard a whistle, he got a little push as well and it is not as if he punched the ball. If that had been outside the box it would have been a free-kick and nothing else. But the crowd played a part and he got sent off.

''Sometimes you have to overcome these things and we overcame a lot today.''

City boss Mark Hughes was more forthright in his opinion, feeling Ronaldo had left referee Howard Webb with little alternative to brandish the red card.

''I don't think the referee had any choice,'' said Hughes.''I don't know what reason he will give for doing it but if he says the ball was going to hit him in the face why didn't he head it?

''It is a soft sending-off but it was a second bookable offence and he had to go.''

Hughes was disappointed with his team's efforts, feeling there were too sluggish, largely due to Thursday's UEFA Cup trip to Schalke.

In addition, star man Robinho could only turn out after having an injection in an ankle injury that had prevented him from training all week.

Hughes said: ''It was a difficult game for Robinho but we wanted him on because he has been our talisman.''

Hughes noted the rough treatment Shaun Wright-Phillips had been singled out for.

Most of the six United yellow cards, which will get the Old Trafford club a fine, were for offences against the England man, a decision which Hughes felt was premeditated.

''If I can be diplomatic and say United have great experience of being able to control the game and dictate the momentum of the play,'' said Hughes.

''Sometimes they do that by stopping people in their tracks and Shaun was stopped on numerous occasions.''

Hughes confirmed Micah Richards is a major doubt for Wednesday's UEFA Cup tie with Paris St Germain after limping off with an ankle injury.

However, he was gracious enough to admit his old club deserved their success.

''We showed them too much respect in the first half,'' said the Welshman.''This is not going to happen overnight for us. We are going in the right direction but it takes time. We have to compete against that and in the near future we will.

''But at the moment they are a better team than us.''

It is a sentiment Ferguson will doubtless agree with, although he was more concerned with the three points, achieved thanks to Wayne Rooney's 100th goal in club football after Joe Hart had parried Michael Carrick's shot into his path three minutes from half-time.

''We needed to win the game because we are behind Liverpool and Chelsea, so it was a significant result for us,'' he said.

''I love the type of goal Wayne scored. Andy Cole was a specialist at it. Wayne anticipated the situation very well and I am delighted with that.

''It is a marvellous achievement for him to get 100 goals. His work rate was phenomenal today.''

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