SWANSEA // Some people mellow with age. Not Sir Alex Ferguson, however, who reacted to Manchester United’s loss of two points by accusing the Swansea City captain Ashley Williams of displaying a recklessness that could have got his top scorer Robin van Persie killed.
In an intemperate, extraordinary outburst, the United manager, who turns 71 on New Year’s Eve, called upon the game’s governing bodies to give the Wales international a lengthy suspension because of an incident in the 75th minute.
When, after being tripped by Nathan Dyer, Van Persie went to ground and as the referee Michael Oliver awarded a free kick, Williams booted the ball against the striker’s head.
It was entirely accidental, the defender said: he was trying to clear and, when Van Persie grabbed him, attempted to apologise. Both players were cautioned after the ensuing melee but Williams deemed it: “Much ado about nothing.”
Ferguson vehemently disagreed. “He could have been killed. It is absolutely deliberate. It was a disgraceful act.
“He [Williams] should be banned for a long time. It was the most dangerous thing I have seen on a football field for a long time.
Irrespective of him having a yellow card, the FA have to look into it.”
His ire was targeted, too, at the referee for “a shocking performance.” Ferguson’s other main grievance was that Van Persie was challenged by Chico Flores in the build-up to Swansea’s equaliser.
“An absolutely clear foul,” the United manager said. That said, it took a further 22 seconds for Michael Laudrup’s team to strike, a slick passing move involving Williams eventually resulting in Wayne Routledge sending Jonathan de Guzman clear with a deft, first-time ball.
David de Gea parried his shot but Michu was on hand to convert the rebound. In the process, he displaced Van Persie from the top of the Premier League scoring charts.
Ferguson had been in a rather better mood earlier in the week when he said he had not heard of Michu when Swansea signed the Spaniard in the summer. It is safe to say he has now.
His goal, coupled with United’s poor fortune and finishing, cost them victory.
“We have thrown two points away,” Ferguson said. “We absolutely battered them.”
But a day after Manchester City turned one point into three with a late goal, United could not emulate their neighbours.
They mustered the predictable, powerful onslaught but without the familiar ending.
For once, they were the nearly men. And having dealt solely in boom and bust for eight months, United finally experienced parity. For the first time since April, they drew a league game.
And yet, given their loftier aspirations, it felt like a defeat. It certainly seemed a setback for a side intent on restoring their lead over City to six points.
They were twice denied a winner by the bar, thwarting Van Persie and Michael Carrick, and once by the Ben Davies, when the left-back blocked Ashley Young’s goalbound shot.
“Handball,” said Ferguson. “It was one of those days when we got absolutely nothing.”
Whether tried-and-tested deflection tactic or heartfelt belief, his attacks upon Oliver and Williams rather obscured an eventful, entertaining game.
United were in the ascendant for the most part but, as Laudrup said: “They had the bigger chances, but we had the spirit and the players really wanted a result.”
They came from behind to get it. Van Persie’s first contribution was to take a corner that Patrice Evra met, glancing his header in.
It was a third goal of the season for the Frenchman, all headers from set pieces, and Swansea failed to heed the prior warnings that, despite his lack of height, the left-back is a danger in the air.
But more regular scorers proved less reliable. Wayne Rooney was one culprit, shooting straight at Michel Vorm when Evra picked him out, and although when Van Persie hit the bar from his delivery, it had more to do with the agile, improvised volley than the cross. Rooney endured a day when little he tried came off.
“He didn’t play well,” said Ferguson, in one of his more restrained comments. “Simple as that.”
He was replaced, Ryan Giggs adding verve in the closing stages when a fired-up, feisty Van Persie was ubiquitous. He delivered the corner that Carrick met with a near-post header that Vorm tipped on to the bar.
When Williams blocked Van Persie’s shot, the rebound fell for Young but Davies got in the way.
Giggs almost scored from 40 yards, too, but he was off target and a furious Ferguson provided the post-match drama with a remarkable rant.
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