Wednesday, March 17, 2010

United angry as FA clear Gerrard

Liverpool skipper will play at Old Trafford on Sunday despite incident against Portsmouth

The decision has incensed Manchester United and led to allegations that the Football Association has employed double standards. Had he been found guilty of violent conduct, Gerrard would have been banned from Liverpool's trip to Old Trafford on Sunday. The collision with Gerrard knocked Brown to the floor.

United's anger stems mostly from the fact that the defender Rio Ferdinand was banned for three games for swinging an arm into the face of Craig Fagan during a 4-0 win against Hull in January. That punishment was increased by one match after Ferdinand appealed. The champions will not make official comment on Gerrard's case but privately they have admitted to being surprised by the verdict and not understanding why the Liverpool captain has been let off. The ruling is also likely to go down badly among Liverpool's rivals for the fourth Champions League place.

The FA says it cannot act because the referee concerned, Stuart Attwell, has maintained that Gerrard's offence did not merit a booking or a red card.

In Ferdinand's case, the incident was missed by the referee, Steve Bennett, who said that he would have shown a red card had he seen it. Attwell has told the FA that he was satisfied with how he dealt with the incident, by awarding Portsmouth a free-kick and speaking to Gerrard.

The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, feels that his team are punished more severely than other clubs. At Ferdinand's hearing United's legal team cited the FA's failure to charge Liverpool's Javier Mascherano over a similar incident involving the Leeds striker Jermaine Beckford at Elland Road in September.

Attwell's view that he was in control of the incident is unlikely to improve his reputation. The youngest Premier League referee by some distance, at 27, he has become known for mistakes, most notoriously the award of a "ghost goal" in a match between Watford and Reading in September 2008.

Gerrard escaped punishment from the FA last week after making a two-fingered gesture towards the referee Andre Marriner in a 1-0 defeat at Wigan. Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, responded to Monday's incident by substituting his captain.

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