Nemanja Vidic lucky to escape red card – Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Nemanja Vidic was lucky not to be sent off in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat of Aston Villa in the final of the Carling Cup.
Villa won a penalty when Vidic fouled Gabriel Agbonlahor, but the Serb remained on the pitch despite denying the striker a goalscoring opportunity.
“We got a lucky break, he could have been sent off,” said the United boss.
“I think it would be universally accepted they should be down to 10 men,” said Villa boss Martin O’Neill.
“It’s not a good decision by an otherwise fine referee, it’s poor.”
Vidic was outpaced by Agbonlahor and when he brought the Villa striker to the ground, it appeared he had prevented him from a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Vidic denies sending-off claim
However, referee Phil Dowd – who showed four yellow cards during the game, including one to Vidic in the second half – opted against even cautioning the United centre-half at the time.
O’Neill added: “Obviously at Wembley, we score the penalty, they are down to 10 men for virtually the whole game. It’s a major point in the game.
“It does not matter if it is in the first second or the 89th minute of the game, the decision is straightforward. It is so straightforward it is incredible.”
Vidic himself accepted he had committed a foul, but did not believe it was worthy of a dismissal.
O’Neill furious at Vidic decision
The 28-year-old said: “I don’t think I deserved a red card as I did not tackle him from behind. But I admit it was definitely a penalty.”
Former Premier League referee Graham Poll agreed that Dowd had made the correct decision, arguing that when Agbonlahor was brought down, he was facing away from goal.
“The referee would have looked for any reason he could not to send that player off because of the occasion,” Poll told BBC Sport.
“People will say there’s nothing about a cup final in the laws of the game, but you try to apply some common sense and understand the occasion and in that situation there was within law a technicality which meant he could leave Vidic on, and so he did.”
United recovered from going behind to James Milner’s resulting penalty to win 2-1, courtesy of a first-half Michael Owen strike and Wayne Rooney’s 74th-minute header.
“It’s hard to take,” said O’Neill. “I thought we played splendidly, particularly in the first half, and we got in front. At half-time I felt we were very, very capable of winning the match. They are young and resilient and they’ll fight back again.”
Villa defender Richard Dunne was at fault for United’s equaliser when he lost possession to Dimitar Berbatov and then his recovery tackle fell straight to Owen to score.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Dunne. “Both teams went for it, they got the goal in the last 20 minutes but we gave it a good go.
“We got a great start and that’s what we wanted to do, but I made a mistake on halfway and against United they score. We had a few chances but unfortunately today wasn’t our day.”
Unlike his manager, Dunne felt the decision not to dismiss Vidic was not crucial to the outcome of the 50th League Cup final.
Dunne was part of the Villa side that failed to beat a United outfit reduced to 10 men in the Premier League earlier this season.
He said: “They got a man sent off at Villa Park and it didn’t make a difference. It’s better to play against 11 men and it made it a better game. It’s their day today.”