Sir Alex Ferguson conceded Manchester United could live to regret their frustrating 2-2 draw against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Nani’s late penalty miss denied Ferguson’s side the opportunity to establish a 3-1 lead with six minutes remaining and was punished when Fulham defender Brede Hangeland headed home an equalizer in the 89th minute.
United manager Ferguson admitted his side hardly deserved to claim all three points after failing to build on Paul Scholes’ low drive that gave the visitors a 12th minute lead and paid credit to Fulham’s resilience in fighting back.
However, Ferguson believed Nani’s penalty, which was saved by Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, proved to be the turning point and expressed his surprise the Portugal winger had taken the kick when Ryan Giggs was on the pitch.
With Chelsea in fine form after winning their first two matches 6-0, Ferguson knows losing touch with the champions at this early stage could be costly.
“You don’t want to be dropping silly points and we dropped silly points here,” he said. “We can’t escape that. There was an opportunity to go 3-1 ahead with three minutes left and we didn’t take it.”
“I don’t think we deserved to be in front at 2-1 but when you get the opportunity to seal the game with that penalty you should be taking it,” he said.
“It was a missed opportunity I feel and it galvanized them, got the crowd up and they scored the equalizer in the end. In fairness to them they were the better team in the second half,” Ferguson said.
“When we got that second goal I thought we’ve escaped here. To miss a penalty kick to make it 3-1, you’re throwing two points away there I’m afraid,” he said. “I thought Ryan should have taken it. In the last game we played against Tottenham at home Ryan scored two penalty kicks and Nani was on the pitch the same day.”
Wayne Rooney missed the game because of illness but Ferguson expects the striker to return next week when West Ham visit Old Trafford.
Stockdale’s penalty save capped an excellent performance from the reserve ’keeper who was once again included after regular No. 1 Mark Schwarzer was ruled out by injury.
Schwarzer remains a target for Arsenal, although the Gunners failure to increase their initial £2 million (US$3.12 million) offer for the Australian when they lodged a second bid for the player last week incensed the Craven Cottage club.
Fulham manager Mark Hughes insists Schwarzer’s departure is by no means assured.
“It’s not a foregone conclusion,” Hughes said. “We’re all aware of Arsenal’s interest. He’s an outstanding goalkeeper and they obviously feel they have an issue with their goalkeeper.”
“I just want to protect my football club and make sure that we don’t weaken or lessen our squad with any departures,” Hughes said.
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