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Five Aside

Fergie rues Fletcher's unwarranted red card

Sir Alex Ferguson hopes Italian referee Roberto Rosetti will hold up his hands and admit he made a mistake after his red card dumped Darren Fletcher out of the Champions League final.

But Ferguson will not be demanding the official looks again at the incident which the United boss described as a ''tragedy'' and which was the one sour note on a glorious night for Manchester United as they humiliated Arsenal 3-1 at the Emirates to clinch a 4-1 aggregate victory in a dramatic semi-final.

United now go to Rome on May 27 in a bid to become the first side to successfully defend their Champions League title. But unless there is an unprecedented decision by UEFA, Fletcher will not be there after he was adjudged to have brought down Cesc Fabregas in the penalty area.

Without an appeals process in place, Fletcher has no grounds to contest the decision and will definitely miss the final in Rome. It also evoked memories of the bans imposed on Roy Keane and Paul Scholes who missed the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich after picking up yellow cards in United's semi-final second leg against Juventus.

Sir Alex Ferguson said: "You can see the ball has moved in a different direction. It moves away from Cesc Fabregas. I think it's terribly unlucky. There is nothing you can do about it.''

When asked if the player would have been selected for the final in Rome, the Scot added: "You saw his performance tonight and all the big games Darren is always a big player for you.''

''He's (Fletcher) disappointed and he should be disappointed. He's one of the most honest players in the game and to miss the final, it's a tragedy. He was distraught.

''In respect to the referee in this situation he might look at it himself without anyone asking him. We shouldn't ask him. He's competent and fair enough to look at it himself possibly. Apparently, you can't appeal and if that's the case it's disappointing for the boy.''

Arsenal manager Arsenal Wenger also insisted the red card was ''very harsh'' after television pictures clearly showed Fletcher played the ball cleanly.

The incident, however, was a something of side-show on a night when Arsenal were felled by cruel luck and the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Gunners were stunned by two goals in the first 11 minutes. Park Ji-sung slotted the first, cashing in on an unfortunate slip by Arsenal's teenage full-back Kieran Gibbs in the penalty area.

Ronaldo followed that up with a trademark free-kick from 40 yards which fairly rocketed into the net of goalkeeper Manuel Almunia.

Ronaldo added a magnificent third in the second-half following a lightning counter-attack as Arsenal pressed forward. Robin Van Persie slotted Arsenal's lone consolation from the penalty spot.

But it was Ronaldo, the world player of the year, who Ferguson singled out for special praise.

Ferguson said: ''They couldn't handle him. That made the difference for us. We had good shape but we needed someone to give them big problems and on that form Ronaldo's a fantastic player.

''When we transferred ball to Ronaldo it was a big problem for them. Everyone played for each other. They all played their part. Ronaldo was the difference. We got a good start. Two quick goals knocked the wind out of their sails. It was a mountain to climb for them.

''Arsenal were throwing everything forward and we caught them on the counter attack and the speed of play was fantastic.''

Wenger also admitted that Ronaldo was the man they could not handle. He said: ''Tonight we were caught by a team who have the art to kill and take advantage of every mistake. Ronaldo gave us a tough time.

''The most disappointing thing is the game was over before it started. We can only look at ourselves. It is disappointing to fight such a long way and then give the game away as we did.

''In three minutes we conceded two goals and it was too much against a team who defends well. After 10 minutes it was impossible. We kept going and played with pride.''

Ferguson also spared a sympathetic thought for Wenger. The pair have fought countless battles since the Arsenal boss came to England in 1996.

Ferguson said: ''I know exactly how he feels. When you work as hard as he does he deserves success. The problem for Arsene Wenger and myself is that the longer you are in the game the more labels are attached to you. Success or failure.

''If you are not winning you are useless, if you are winning you're great.''

Ferguson also insisted United should have won the biggest prize in Europe on more than three occasions.

''We should have won this cup more times and this is another opportunity for,'' he said. ''We have the quality, the energy and ambition. It's a hungry team and when the chips are down they don't let me down.''


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