Football: `United are pretty awesome even when not at their best', says Blair

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The Independent Online
Kenny Dalglish, the Newcastle United manager, was deeply critical of the referee, Peter Jones, after Manchester United stretched their lead at the top of the Premiership yesterday.

Jones booked seven players - four of them from Newcastle - and Dalglish, whose side are now 17 points adrift of the champions, said: "It's a difficult enough job for the referee without us being over-critical, but I think he was the worst person on the pitch. It's one thing to have bookings, it's another thing to have them justified.

"If there had been a decent referee, the game would have been even more entertaining."

The United manager, Alex Ferguson, refused to be drawn into a debate about the referee's performance but commented: "I was praising him all week, saying he was one of the up-and-coming ones, but I think I'll reassess that."

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is a Newcastle fan, was among the crowd. "I think Alex Ferguson has created one of the greatest sides of the century," he said. "They're a pretty awesome side, even when they are not at their best."