Ferguson backs video replays after handball row

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The Independent Online

Sir Alex Ferguson's holiday viewing would hardly have made for a sense of goodwill towards all men in black and yesterday the Manchester United manager called for video replays to be used to decide controversial decisions in the Premiership.

Sir Alex Ferguson's holiday viewing would hardly have made for a sense of goodwill towards all men in black and yesterday the Manchester United manager called for video replays to be used to decide controversial decisions in the Premiership.

But for two failures to give blatant handballs - against Arsenal at Newcastle and against Chelsea at Liverpool - Manchester United might have significantly closed the gap on the leading pair. Last Wednesday, Ferguson saw Ashley Cole punch the ball in his own penalty area at St James' Park. Not only was the incident not seen by the referee Steve Bennett, but moments later Patrick Vieira scored Arsenal's decisive goal.

The furore over the Cole handball was nothing compared to the fury directed against the referee Mike Riley at Anfield on New Year's Day. His argument that Tiago Mendes' handling in the Chelsea area was "ball to hand" cut no ice with Liverpool. Their England defender, Jamie Carragher, accused Riley - who in October erred in awarding Manchester United a crucial penalty against Arsenal at Old Trafford - of potentially "being the difference between Arsenal winning and losing the League".

Ferguson has always been against using replays, arguing that it would interrupt the flow of a match, but by yesterday afternoon his mind had been changed. "Eventually, progress takes a quantum leap forward and I think that at some point in the Premier League they will have video evidence," he said.

"I was reading about the coach at Bologna who was suggesting videos on the side of the pitch and that if the referee couldn't make up his mind within 30 seconds - which is the time it takes to take a throw-in - the referee should play on. That isn't a bad idea, because what you don't want is people sat in the stands freezing. I think that's the deterrent to video evidence, but progress is progress and I have come round to the idea."

Arsène Wenger has long been a supporter of video technology and the Arsenal manager agreed that Riley had unduly influenced the title race. "Mike Riley has made a mistake, he cannot hide from that in those two games but I cannot influence that," he said. "I can only be responsible for the behaviour of my team and in the latest statistics for December we committed less fouls than anyone else and had more fouls committed against us. Then, what I expect from referees is to be honest and I believe Mike Riley is an honest man but, of course, they make mistakes."

Nevertheless, Ferguson argued that luck, that most unscientific of commodities, must eventually begin to abandon Chelsea as the season nears its climax. "Most people are saying Chelsea have scraped a few results lately. I watched their game against Liverpool and, apart from Liverpool being the dominant team, they also lost Xabi Alonso at a very important time. It was a kick in the teeth to Liverpool and they didn't get any better after that," he said.

"In fairness to Chelsea, they know they will drop points. It's how they handle it at the time that matters. Chelsea haven't had any injuries either. Arsenal and ourselves have had quite a few injury problems but Chelsea have steered clear of them which is amazing."

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