Sir Alex Ferguson accused Andy Carroll of making a red-card challenge on David de Gea and expressed disbelief that the West Ham United striker remained on the pitch, as arguments flared after Manchester United's 2-2 draw at Upton Park.
The United manager talked of West Ham's "very, very aggressive" aerial approach and he raged at the fourth official, Andre Marriner, in the 45th minute, when Carroll clattered hard into the goalkeeper at a corner. Ferguson, who felt that his team had stood up like champions, suggested that the referee, Lee Probert, was not strong enough, but his West Ham counterpart, Sam Allardyce, also tore into the officials.
Television replays showed that Robin van Persie was in an offside position when Shinji Kagawa's 77th-minute shot hit both posts before breaking for the striker to score United's second equaliser of the evening. The assistant referee Harry Lennard did not flag. Allardyce said that West Ham had been robbed of a "famous victory" and in the row over Carroll's challenge on De Gea, he took issue with Ferguson.
"It was a red card, there is no doubt about that," Ferguson said. "The referee did see it but he didn't see it as a red card. We know how West Ham play, it's ball-in-the-air most of the time and you've got to defend those things. They are very, very aggressive as we've seen tonight. You hope there's a strong referee. I'm not so sure we got that tonight.
"We had to stand up to a lot there but we kept going, our players, down twice, came back . They played like champions. They were magnificent in terms of determination and courage to play, so I was pleased with the result."
Allardyce was not. "Can I get my anger out first?" he said. "This was a famous victory for us and when we play like that and score one of the best goals of the season [through Mohamed Diamé] ... the job of the assistant referee is to give the decision. Van Persie is two yards offside.
"He has taken a famous victory from us. To draw this game by default is a bitter pill to swallow. We were outstanding. If my players make those mistakes, they get dropped, so should they. Our fans [should] go home with 41 points, knowing that we are safe. There is £60m, £70m, £80m riding on it.
"This level of football has to be equalled by the level of the officials. [Lennard's] coaches have to coach him properly and coach him into getting better – that is why they are professional these days."
Carroll said that he had gone for the ball in the collision that left De Gea poleaxed. "I was running straight in and I couldn't stop at that moment," he said. Allardyce backed him up, with a nod towards the stopping distances in the Highway Code.
"As you'll know from your code, when you are travelling at 60mph, it takes 300 yards to stop," he said. "When Andy is travelling at 15mph, he can't stop. I don't agree [with Ferguson]. It was a yellow at worst. You can't commit for a header and then suddenly stop. We're just bitterly disappointed with the result, although it's another precious point against the team who are going to be champions."
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Andrea Sartorati