Alex Ferguson said yesterday that it was “unthinkable” that referee Mark Clattenburg had racially abused a Chelsea player during Manchester United’s controversial victory last weekend.
United’s 3-2 Premier League win was overshadowed by allegations from the losers that Clattenburg, who sent off two Chelsea men, used “inappropriate language” to two of their players during the match.
It is a matter that is being investigated by police and the Football Association, with the focus now on claims that Clattenburg used a racist slur against John Obi Mikel. A second accusation, relating to Spaniard Juan Mata, has been dropped by Chelsea while Clattenburg maintains his innocence on all matters.
Now, after words of support from Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, Clattenburg has received the significant backing of Ferguson, the manager in the visitors’ dug-out during the contentious afternoon at Stamford Bridge.
“I don’t believe Mark Clattenburg would make any comments like that,” Ferguson said yesterday. “I refuse to believe it. I think it’s unthinkable.
“In the modern climate, I just don’t believe it. Simple as that. There is no way a referee would stoop to that, I’m convinced about that,” he said.
Ferguson said: “I think the way we see the game today as compared to the way it was 25 years ago, it has completely changed.”
“I played myself and I know the banter that goes on between referees and players 25 years ago is different from today,” Ferguson said. “I’ve never heard of a player come to me in the last 15 years and say, the referee swore in the game. Ever. So that’s where I stand, I don’t believe it.”
“It’s a wider [society] issue but I’m not concerned about that. You asked me a question about last Sunday and that’s what I think,” he said.
United returned to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, losing a League Cup tie 5-4 in extra-time and Ferguson paid tribute yesterday to the role of veteran Ryan Giggs in that match.
“I thought Ryan Giggs was an example to both sets of players on the pitch,” he said. “He’s approaching 39 this month — the 29th of November — it’s absolutely phenomenal a player can produce that for 120 minutes.”