Fergie fury as Manchester United exit Champions League

Sir Alex Ferguson’s blood pressure may take weeks to return to a steady simmer after Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League in a contentious night at Old Trafford. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner for Real, but the night hinged on the sending off of winger Nani when United were leading 1-0.

Nani’s waist-high challenge on Arbeloa seemed an unfortunate accident rather than a malicious act of intent, but was clearly dangerous. It was a key point in the game, but the referee’s decision was hardly outrageous, as pundit Roy Keane pointed out on ITV. Ferguson thought otherwise, rushing down from his seat to scream at the officials. He pointed an accusing finger at the final whistle.

Ferguson was still too irate to face the press after the game. His assistant Mike Phelan said "I don't think the manager is in any fit state to talk to the referee about the decision. We all witnessed a decision that seemed very harsh, possibly incredible at that moment in the game."

Jose Mourinho was generous in victory. He could empathise with Ferguson. "If somebody can cry, then I am the first one," Mourinho said, remembering Pepe's harsh red card against Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League semi-final. "My history is not to play against 10, it is to play with 10, and not in the last 16 or quarter-finals but in semi-finals. I want to be honest and to be honest is to say that in my opinion the best team lost. But that's football."

The match was evenly-balanced with Real enjoying dominant possession, but relying on some excellent goalkeeping from Diego Lopez to frustrate United. The introduction of Luka Modric was crucial as the ex-Spurs player struck a brilliant equaliser and started the move that led to Ronaldo’s winner.

Ferguson’s petulant reaction was emulated by Rio Ferdinand who clapped his hands sarcastically in the referee’s face at the final whistle. It was an unedifying image of Manchester United, used to more compliant refereeing in the Premier League, appearing as bad losers when decisions don’t go all their way in Europe.

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