Ferguson: United had a lucky escape

Sir Alex Ferguson admitted Manchester United had a lucky escape as they beat Fulham 1-0 to move three points clear of Manchester City.

Martin Jol’s Cottagers headed to Old Trafford on Monday night and Wayne Rooney opened the scoring just before half-time with his 28th goal of the campaign.

But United failed to make their pressure tell and when Michael Carrick clumsily bundled Danny Murphy over inside the box a minute from time, even Ferguson said the visitors had a reasonable penalty shout.

"They had a claim," he said. "But the referee was a bit lenient when we had a claim for a penalty in the first-half for handball. Patrice Evra thought it was a stone-waller.

"Maybe that has swayed the referee because Michael Carrick caught Danny Murphy’s heel as he came back and it could have been a penalty."

Understandably, Fulham manager Martin Jol was less than impressed with 27-year-old referee Michael Oliver.

And given Jol was also in the opposing dug-out seven years ago when a shot from Pedro Mendes dropped a yard over the line without being given, it is clear the ‘Theater of Dreams’ is not living up to its name as far as he is concerned.

"No-one in the stadium could say Danny Murphy dived and everyone in the stadium expected a penalty," said Jol.

"A few years ago, the ball was a meter over the line and they did not give it. Maybe the linesman was not quick enough that time.

"But here the referee was there in line. It needed a brave decision because it was either a dive and he should book someone or he has to give Carrick a red card.

"I don’t want to see Carrick sent off but it needed a brave decision and I think it was a penalty kick."

The result extended United’s present run to 28 points from a possible 30 and provides them with a handy advantage heading into the final eight games.

Relegation-threatened Blackburn provide the next test at Ewood Park in six days’ time when Ferguson hopes Rio Ferdinand has recovered from the back problem that forced him off with 20 minutes remaining.

"Rio has a bit of stiffness," said Ferguson. "He gets that from time to time so we brought Chris Smalling on as a safeguard.

"If Rio had played it out, he would probably have managed it okay but he may not have been available for a couple of weeks.

"We have done the right thing."