Ferguson backs Wenger's Wembley complaints

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The Independent Football

Manchester United and Arsenal managers Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger rarely see eye to eye but both were united in their condemnation of the state of the Wembley Stadium pitch after the weekend's FA Cup semi-finals.

Neither went so far as to blame the playing surface for their defeats, but Wenger described the pitch as an embarrassment for a national stadium after his side lost 2-1 to Chelsea on Saturday.

Ferguson decided to leave many of his first-team regulars out of United's semi-final against Everton on Sunday after he assessed the state of the pitch.

Everton manager David Moyes, whose side beat United on penalties after a poor game ended in a goalless draw, agreed the pitch was bad, although Chelsea's interim coach Guus Hiddink said he saw nothing wrong with it.

The grass at Wembley has been re-laid five times since the £750m stadium re-opened two years ago. It has come under frequent criticism ever since.

Ferguson, who played a team mainly comprising youngsters and reserves against Everton, said: "When I saw the pitch on Saturday what I didn't want was to go into extra-time with my strongest squad.

"It looked spongy and dead and difficult to move the ball quickly around it.

"They've got all these lights around the perimeter to help the growth and the standard of the soil but it looks dead to me.

"So we had to go with the bold decision of playing the younger ones. After all, our club is built on giving young players opportunities and they didn't disappoint."

On Saturday Wenger said the pitch was below-par.

"Frankly it is embarrassing for a national stadium. I am not saying we lost because of the grass. It was not that. But the quality is a disaster."

Moyes added: "The pitch is very difficult to explain. It's spongy, it has no speed, it's difficult to get the ball to move quickly.

"So many of the Premier League grounds are firm now and good to play on, but they need to do something about this one."

England manager Fabio Capello has also criticised the pitch in the past year.

There are still six more matches to be played on the pitch before the FA Cup final on May 30, as well as eight concerts to be held at Wembley in the summer.

An FA spokesman told Reuters: "We know that there are still several issues with the pitch which we are working hard to resolve."