Ferguson praises 'incredible' behaviour of United players

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday welcomed the FA investigation into the mêlée which followed the final whistle at Old Trafford last Sunday, claiming Manchester United had nothing to reproach themselves for.

Senior officials at the club have been angered by the misconduct charges levelled at Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, who intervened as Martin Keown and other Arsenal players taunted and jostled Ruud van Nistelrooy, although Ferguson did not attack the decision in public.

The Manchester United manager commented that given the fact that Van Nistelrooy had just missed a penalty and that his side had dropped two points against their most determined title opponents, any over-reaction might have been expected to come from the home team.

"Everyone was disappointed by the penalty kick and no one more than Ruud, which is why our behaviour was brilliant. We were the ones who were really disappointed but we didn't show it," Ferguson said.

The incident has been filmed from 31 separate angles and, although Ferguson has not yet received the videos from the FA, he expects them to arrive early next week.

"But we welcome the FA investigation," said Ferguson, who will be unable to attend a hearing into his own dismissal for improper language at Newcastle last month because he is attending Aberdeen's centenary dinner. "It's important because nobody could have enjoyed watching that. We are open-minded about the whole thing. I thought our behaviour was incredible given the circumstances."

Van Nistelrooy, the man at the centre of the storm who was bluntly described as a cheat by the Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, for his part in Patrick Vieira's sending-off, has suffered no mental reaction either to the jostling or his third failed penalty, according to Ferguson. The previous two were saved by Jussi Jaaskelainen at Bolton and by Arsenal's Jens Lehmann in the Community Shield; this one thundered against the Arsenal crossbar.

"The same man will be taking the penalty kicks and he will score the next one," Ferguson said. "He hit it too hard, tried to make sure, but I would have hated it if he'd come up and done one of these weak side-footers. His last two penalty misses were fantastic saves, you have to remember that."

Although United have decided Paul Scholes does not require a hernia operation and is likely to play at Leicester this afternoon after a month away, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's imminent knee surgery is expected to keep him out of action until Christmas, providing further opportunities for Ronaldo's young talent to blossom.

Ferguson said he is not taking a risk by playing Scholes. "If he had not come through this week's training, the subject of the operation would have had to come up again. But he has trained hard all week, is ready for the game and will bring us some freshness."

Ronaldo's display against Arsenal drew a mixed response from his manager. "I don't think big games are a problem for the kid, temperament-wise, he showed that on Sunday. But I thought he either tired in the second half against Arsenal or that the service to him was cut off. He certainly wasn't in the game as much. But we know about his talent, it's just a question of when you want to use it."

And to quote the slogan from Manchester United's shirt sponsor, Vodafone, now is good.