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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 13:11 GMT
Ferguson's double standards?
Man Utd's players pointedly refuse to bully referee Andy D'Urso
Man Utd's players publicly refuse to bully Andy D'Urso
BBC Sport Online's Phil McNulty

David Beckham was stunned by flying footwear volleyed by a furious Sir Alex Ferguson - the act of a graduate from the managerial old school.

Ferguson - rather like Basil Fawlty taking a branch to his stricken car - kicked a boot in the direction of Manchester United's misfiring stars after their FA Cup defeat against Arsenal.

The gesture, if it happened, was inspired as much by desperation as anger.

And it landed with a deadly accuracy perhaps not mirrored by Ferguson's own recollection of history, or indeed the past behaviour of his own team, after Arsenal left Old Trafford triumphant in the FA Cup.

Man Utd midfielder David Beckham
Beckham: Wrong place, wrong time?

Ferguson's last week has exposed what some may wish to call the selective memory of Manchester United's manager. For it was quite a week, even in Fergieworld.

Ferguson was involved in shaping the Republic of Ireland's future after talks with Roy Keane persuaded him to quit the international stage.

He then turned his fire on the FA for scheduling their first friendly for four months against Australia - even though coach Sven-Goran Eriksson agreed he would only use his players for 45 minutes.

Ferguson did not escape unscathed, with Holland boss Dick Advocaat accusing him of playing "games" for only allowing Ruud van Nistelrooy 45 minutes in the game against Argentina, for whom Juan Sebastian Veron played 75 minutes.

But Ferguson reserved his masterclass for when Arsenal had outplayed Manchester United in the FA Cup.

Andy D'Urso bullies a selection of Man Utd stars

Ferguson - who disastrously played Ryan Giggs up front and restricted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to the left - failed to acknowledge Manchester United's failure to kick Arsenal out of their stride.

Instead, with a straight face deserving of a belated Oscar nomination, he claimed referee Jeff Winter was "bullied" by Arsenal's players.

Fine words from a manager whose team, it could be argued, have proved past masters at surrounding the referee, with Andy D'Urso a target more than once.

United were seen by many observers to be lucky not to be down to nine players, with both Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy running the risk of red from the referee.


But Ferguson claimed "there is no need for players who are 6ft 3ins to fall down the way they were".

Has Ferguson issued similar strictures to Ruud van Nistelorooy, who has also been known to hit the deck quickly?

Maybe not.

Ferguson sounded like a man whistling in the dark because Arsenal had demonstrated their superiority in Manchester United's manor - just as they had when winning the double last season.

Arsenal ignored United's own bully boy tactics to leave them looking very basic, very English, by the final whistle.

And perhaps Ferguson's fury was fired by horrible images of what would really be the final insult for this proud man of Manchester United.

Namely, Arsenal returing to Old Trafford in May to claim Ferguson's beloved Champions League.

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