Ferguson bites tongue, but Rafael's red card was 'harsh' says Redknapp

Home supporters stage protest against plans to move from White Hart Lane to east London
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Sir Alex Ferguson was clearly fuming but the Manchester United boss managed to contain his anger at referee Mike Dean for the controversial decision to send off defender Rafael da Silva.

The Brazilian was sent off with 16 minutes left when Dean, who had already booked the right-back for a nasty tackle on Wilson Palacios, brandished a second yellow card after Rafael clipped the heels of Tottenham's Benoît Assou-Ekotto, sparking howls of protest. Wayne Rooney was booked for the strength of his outrage.

Afterward, Ferguson bit his tongue, having found himself in trouble in the past for criticising Dean. The United manager said: "I don't need to discuss that. You can see that for yourself. I don't have to discuss the referee. It's out of my bounds now, thank God."

The Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp had every sympathy with Ferguson, over the decision to dismiss Rafael. "It was very, very harsh," he said. "It was Mary Decker and Zola Budd, he was just running and clipped his heels. Very harsh."

Ferguson's history with Dean flared up in April last year after United's 2-1 home defeat to Chelsea, when the manager said: "When you see it is Mike Dean today, you worry. A lot of people criticise him but I won't go down that road." Dean was promptly demoted to the Championship for a game.

In November 2008, Ferguson was banned from the touchline for two games and fined £10,000 after he marched on to the Old Trafford pitch to berate Dean for not sending off Hull City defender Andy Turner at the end of United's 4-3 victory.

Yesterday's draw extended United's 21-game unbeaten run this season, but Redknapp does not believe it will last all season.

Redknapp said: "It would be a miracle if Alex gets them through the season unbeaten. They could do it, but personally I don't see it. In the past couple of years they have lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, so you can't tell me it's a better team."

The point put United back on top of the Premier League, on goal difference ahead of neighbours Manchester City but with two games in hand. Ferguson predicted a close race, with five teams battling at the top.

"It could be a real thrilling end to the season," Ferguson said. "All five clubs are improving their chances. Tottenham are not out of it. It's all about winning games and keeping your nerve. Today, defensively, we kept our nerve. They never really troubled us, which was good considering the goals they have scored and their performances at home."

Redknapp played down suggestions Everton's Steven Pienaar would be joining. "I really don't know what's happening," he said. "Chelsea have seemingly offered £3m for him but their manager Carlo Ancelotti, who is a lovely man and is as honest as the day is long, says they have not made an offer. He is not a liar, so I don't know who's made that offer."

Before kick-off, disgruntled Tottenham supporters protested outside White Hart Lane against the club's intended move to the site of the 2012 Olympic Stadium in east London.

Demonstrators waved banners with the slogans "Say No to Stratford" and "Spurs must stay", setting off flares and blocked Tottenham High Road for 40 minutes. Fans also unfurled an anti-Stratford banner inside the ground at half-time.

Tottenham claim it will cost around £250m to knock down the athletics stadium and build a new 60,000-seat football ground, as opposed to the £450m it would take to redevelop White Hart Lane, their home since 1899. West Ham are also negotiating with the Olympic Park Legacy Company to move into the stadium in Stratford after the London Games, with matches likely to begin in the 2015-16 season.

Tim Framps, one of the organisers of the We Are N17 campaign, said: "We're disappointed the lack of consultation. The fans should let their voices be known."

Mike Lee, who helped bring the Olympics to London and now works as an adviser to Spurs' attempt to move there, yesterday said he fears the Olympics Stadium will become "a white elephant" if the club's proposal is rejected. The Olympic Park Legacy Company is due to announce its preferred bidder for the stadium later this month, with a confirmed agreement in place by the end of March.