Ferguson critical of Rooney red card


Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson has defended Wayne Rooney after the England striker was sent off but he made no excuses for a potentially damaging 2-0 Premier League defeat at Fulham.

Rooney, who replaced ineffective Bulgaria forward Dimitar Berbatov at half-time, was shown the red card in the 88th minute after hurling the ball in the direction of referee Phil Dowd.

United finished with nine men after Paul Scholes was sent off for a handball on the line after 18 minutes with Danny Murphy scoring the resulting penalty to put Fulham ahead.

"The ball was thrown to where the free kick was being taken - did it hit the referee? No," Ferguson told MUTV after his side's first back-to-back defeats in the league for four years.

"But there's no point talking about the referee - we didn't play well enough in the first half and that's why we lost. In the first half we never got started."

United assistant manager Mike Phelan earlier described Rooney's red card as an over-reaction by the referee.

"It seemed very trivial - not in the referee's eyes, but in our eyes. It was a trivial thing to do," he told the BBC.

United were let off the hook by second-placed Chelsea's defeat at Tottenham which ended manager Guus Hiddink's 100 percent start in the league since taking over last month.

However, Liverpool can cut United's lead to one point if they beat Aston Villa at Anfield today.