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Life President
May 29, 2005
Sir Alex Ferguson, even more than he likes red wine, likes to moan about referee's. He does it so often now that many just ignore him, like the old relative at christmas who's hell bent on retelling his childhood. Well, Ferguson might actually have a point with his ranting this evening...

It's long been said that all players and managers alike want is consistency. Martin Atkinson was consistent today, consistently awful, that is.

Much had been made of United's poor form in the lead up to this crunch fixture. They have looked out of sorts recently and struggled to claim a draw against a CSKA Moscow side that couldn't defend during the week. The side fielded today was everything but poor. Strong, combatent, forward thinking... Ferguson fielded a side ready for battle and Chelsea duly obliged.

Occasions like these cry out for football to be allowed to be played, but it didn't take long for Martin Atkinson, of excessive extra time fame, to steal the show.

In the 14th minute, Antonio Valencia raced clear of his marker and bore down on goal with only John Terry in his way. Valencia darted to his right and Terry, quite clearly, grabbed a handful of his shirt, dragged him to the ground and then threw himself into the United winger. The linesman had an unobstructed view of the incident, but failed to wave his flag.

More strange decisions followed. Ivanovic was given unprecedented freedom to arrive knee-high on Ryan Giggs early on in the second half, while Jonathan Evans went one better by pole-axing Didier Drogba, only for Drogba to recieve a booking for his battered ribs.

The pivotal decision, however, came ten minutes from time. The ball escaped Ashley Cole, who worked tirelessly down the left flank to keep United at bay, only for the ever-present Darren Fletcher to take the ball, his momentum sending Ashley Cole into the air. If it's a foul, then Football is dying a sorry death of petty decisions and half-hearted challenges. As if it was written in the stars, Chelsea scored the decisive goal from the resulting free kick, Wes Brown being dragged to the floor in process. Ferguson was quite right in his analysis that, from the position Atkinson took for the free kick, he hadn't a chance in hell of seeing any wrong-doing.

The loss leaves Chelsea five points clear of United and Arsenal, but the gap is nowhere near as unassailable as some would have you believe. Chelsea still have the scintillating Gunners to visit, twice, and United made great strides in their performance today.

Ferguson has made a habit of criticising referee's this season, so much that he's surpassed his previous record of 879 referee rants in a season by November. The case may be, however, that today he actually had a point.