Ferguson questions 'penalty' decision
Sir Alex Ferguson believes he could have lost his first FA Cup semi-final because of a seed of doubt planted by Everton manager David Moyes.
The Manchester United boss saw his makeshift side of youngsters lose a dramatic penalty shoot-out after battling to a goalless draw after extra time against Everton at Wembley.
But Ferguson was left pondering whether referee Mike Riley denied United what appeared to be a certain penalty in the 69th minute when Danny Welbeck was brought down by Phil Jagielka because of remarks made earlier in the week by Moyes.
When told Riley was a United supporter by reporters Moyes had dodged the issue, saying: "If that's true why don't you ask the FA?"
Ferguson believes it could have been a factor.
"I think it might have been," Ferguson said.
"I'm not saying that for certain. I've no idea if it affected the decision but you never know. It may have. It can prey on a referee's mind.
"I've seen the video and it looks a penalty kick but in the importance of the game the referee probably has to be dead sure.
"Why would he (Welbeck) go down when he had the goalkeeper stranded out of his goal? It was a major decision and unfortunately it has gone against us. Nothing you can do about it. We have to move on now.
"When he (Riley) sees it he'll probably realise he's made a mistake but I can't say that's the reason for us losing."
The incident saw a furious Ferguson storm on to the pitch, arms waving wildly as he ranted at Riley.
It also brought an honest appraisal from Moyes who admitted: "I thought it looked a penalty kick. If I had been the manager I would have been calling for a penalty kick."
It was a match of few clear-cut chances which was settled when former United goalkeeper Tim Howard saved from Dimitar Berbatov and Rio Ferdinand in the shoot-out, while Leighton Baines, Phil Neville, James Vaughan and Jagielka all scored for Everton after Tim Cahill had ballooned the first spot-kick over the crossbar.
It left Moyes saluting youngster Vaughan and Jagielka, in particular, for volunteering to take two of the spot kicks, especially after Jagielka had missed a crucial one against Fiorentina in the UEFA Cup last season.
Moyes said: "There were a few heads nodding but it took great bottle and courage for James Vaughan and Jagielka to go up.
"But the fans made that a special semi-final. I thought Everton's supporters were raucous and gave this stadium deserved support.
"We do not have a big enough squad but the players have done a great job.
"This was probably the biggest game I've been involved in, partly because it was a semi-final and partly because of Manchester United.
"We're now looking forward to playing Chelsea. We're playing the big teams more often now and that tells you we are getting somewhere.
"But this is just a semi. We have not won anything yet but it was an important moment for the football club."
Meanwhile, in a revelation which is sure to embarrass the Football Association, Ferguson insisted he pulled Paul Scholes, Berbatov and Patrice Evra out of the starting line-up and fielded a team packed with youngsters and reserves because of the dreadful state of the Wembley pitch.
He said: "When I saw the pitch yesterday (in the Chelsea v Arsenal semi) what I didn't want was to go into extra time with my strongest squad.
"Yesterday it looked spongy and dead and difficult to move the ball quickly around it. They've got all these lights around the perimeter to help the growth and the standard of the soil. But it looks dead to me.
"So we had to go with the bold decision of playing the younger ones. After all our club is built on giving young players opportunities and they didn't disappoint.
"Once we made our mind up I was quite enthusiastic about it. It was the right thing to do. It was good for them."
Ferguson now has to pick up his team for a crucial league match against Portsmouth on Wednesday when Darren Fletcher will be available after injury and when the big guns will return, including Wayne Rooney.
For Moyes the victory secures European football once more for Everton. And he singled out former United stars Howard and Neville for special praise.
He said: "They work really hard for their club. Howard and Neville are top gentlemen."
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