Ferguson rues Nani penalty miss

United, missing Wayne Rooney because of a virus, suffered an early

slip in the Premier League title race when Nani missed an

87th-minute penalty that would have secured a 3-1 lead. Nani’s

effort was well saved by David Stockdale and in the final minute

Brede Hangeland, whose own goal had nudged United ahead, nodded

home the equaliser. “When you get the opportunity to seal the game

with that penalty you should be taking it,” Ferguson told MUTV. “It

was a missed opportunity and it galvanised them, got the crowd up

and they scored the equaliser in the end. “When we got that second

goal I thought ‘we’ve escaped here’. “But to miss a penalty kick to

make it 3-1, you’re throwing two points away there I’m afraid. “You

don’t want to be dropping silly points and we dropped silly points

today. We can’t escape that. “There was an opportunity to go 3-1

ahead with three minutes left and we didn’t take it.” Ferguson’s

frustration at failing to join Chelsea at the top of the table was

tempered by the admission Fulham deserved a point from an

enthralling contest. An ominous start from United saw Paul Scholes

fire a powerful 25-yard drive in the 11 minute only for Simon

Davies to equalise in emphatic fashion during a second half

controlled by the Cottagers. “In fairness to Fulham they were the

better team in the second half. I don’t think we deserved to be in

front at 2-1,” said Ferguson. “They caused us a lot of problem,

particularly Bobby Zamora who was very good for them. We can’t

complain in terms of the run of the game.” Ferguson added: “We’ve

seen that before from Paul – he’s done that so many times. “Once

again it was an outstanding performance from him. It’s just

disappointing we didn’t ram home the advantage.” Ferguson

questioned why Nani and not fellow substitute Ryan Giggs stepped up

for the ill-fated penalty. “I thought Ryan should have taken it,”

said the Scot. “In the last game we played against Tottenham at

home Ryan scored two penalty kicks and Nani was on the pitch the

same day. Maybe Ryan should have taken it.” Ferguson confirmed that

Rooney, who has gone 13 games for club and country since his last

competitive goal, was ruled out through illness. “Wayne has a

virus. The problem is he turned up yesterday with it and he had no

chance in 24 hours,” said Ferguson “If it had been a Thursday or

Friday we may have been able to patch him up. “Sometimes these

viruses are 24-hour things and that could have been the case but

there was no attempt to see if he could recover from this.” Fulham

had Stockdale’s reflexes to thank for keeping them in contention

but boss Mark Hughes was wary of lavishing praise on the

24-year-old. Arsenal target Mark Schwarzer, who has handed in a

transfer request, failed to recover from his back injury so

Stockdale continued between the sticks. “Stockdale has done very

well, he’s a good young keeper,” said Hughes. “We’re pleased with

what he’s producing at the moment but it’s always difficult for

young keepers. “They get by initially on enthusiasm, but can they

keep it up over time? We’ve got to be careful with him.”