Well here we go again, another defeat for Man Utd and another excuse from Sir Alex Ferguson. This time the defeat wasn’t down to his side failing to convert their penalties; it was due to the fact that the playing surface at Wembley stopped him from picking his best team. These sentiments have also been echoed from Arsene Wenger this week whose team were also knocked out of the FA Cup.
Admittedly United should have been awarded a penalty kick after Phil Jagielka brought down Danny Welbeck after the striker had rounded goalkeeper Tim Howard. The Everton defender charged in and forced the England Under 21 international to the ground much to the fury of Fergie. Upon seeing Mike Riley’s decision to not award the spot kick Ferguson charged towards the touch line gesticulating ferociously.
However when the games was over and United had eventually been knocked out via a penalty shootout that they lost 4-2 the Scot seemed more angry at the state of the pitch. He claims that they poor playing surface forced him to pick a younger less experienced side, as he didn’t want his best team to be forced into extra time which he felt was inevitable due to the poor playing conditions.
The more likely reason for him picking a weaker side is the fact that United are still set for four trophies this season and have key Premiership and Champions League ties coming up in the next couple of weeks. Take Wayne Rooney for example, according to Utd he ankle was a worry because of a tackle in the previous game so couldn’t play however he will be ok to play in the Premier League on Wednesday evening – obviously the lad heals a damn sight quicker than yours truly.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has also criticised the turf at the national stadium after seeing his side eliminated by Chelsea 2-1 on Saturday. He has told reporters that there was something special at the old Wembley and that ‘is not there anymore.’ Although Wenger does support the use of the stadium for the matches as he feels that the FA should make their money back.
The playing surface has been laid five times since the re-opening of Wembley in 2007 and has been used for music concerts, American Football, Rugby and even a driving race when the pitch was covered in tarmac. Despite the specialist equipment and ground staff at the most expensive stadium in the world the grass has clearly suffered and as a result tore up badly over the weekend.
However Ferguson’s claim that it forced him to change his team selection and thus lose the game is rather farfetched especially from someone that has a history of fielding weaker teams for tournaments he has less interest in.
So Everton and Chelsea go through to the final and surprisingly enough neither David Moyes nor Guus Hiddink have any complaints about the playing conditions. Let’s just hope that with less than 6 weeks to go before the final it will be the football that we are talking about and not the grass.