Grant claims 'influenced' referees helped United

Avram Grant has fired the first shots in the battle of wills before next Wednesday's Champions League final by suggesting that Manchester United were helped by referees in their Premier League triumph this season. In a rare moment of controversy, the Chelsea manager said that some English referees had been subject to "influence" and that he was glad the final in Moscow would be refereed by a foreigner.

Having made an art of restraint since he took the Chelsea job in September from the great provocateur Jose Mourinho, Grant's comments are likely to catch the eye of the Football Association. The Israeli railed against what he saw as a bias in United's favour, claiming that some of the country's top officials favoured Sir Alex Ferguson's team. "I think in England there are some very good referees," he said. "But there are some, a few of them, you can influence, like you saw."

He was referring to three incidents, two of which took place last Sunday when referee Steve Bennett was in charge of United's title-clinching 2-0 victory over Wigan at the JJB Stadium. Grant mentioned "the red card [that was not awarded] for [Paul] Scholes on Sunday should have been. Then there was the penalty [awarded to Wayne Rooney]. He also said that John Obi Mikel's red card in Chelsea's game against United in September – refereed by Mike Dean – was undeserved.

The Scholes incident, in which Bennett did not give him a second yellow card for a blatant block on Wilson Palacios in the first half, has been the source of much discussion since Sunday. The penalty that was given for Emmerson Boyce's foul on Rooney less so. However, despite Grant's subsequent attempts to backtrack and congratulate United on their success, his comments are certain to strain already uneasy relations between the two clubs.

The Chelsea manager has always been reluctant to go on the attack this season, mindful of how Mourinho tested the patience of the club owner Roman Abramovich with his outbursts, but evidently he has taken counsel having watched replays of Sunday's game and decided to speak out. "I told you I believe in the tradition of the fair English game, I will not say anything against this," he said. "But what happened [against Wigan] is what I expected."

Ferguson will get his chance to respond today and he rarely passes up an opportunity to remind a referee of his responsibilities, even thought the man in question has not yet been named for Wednesday's game.

With the final also a focus for Grant's future, the Israeli was characteristically evasive on the subject. His protest that nothing had changed between him and the club's hierarchy was in the absence of any firm statement either way on his future. "I will make it very, very easy for you," he said. "I have a contract for four years. It's a contract between friends, even though we don't want to involve friends in business."

Later Grant contradicted himself, saying that "we do not involve friendship in our jobs". He behaves like a man whose job is safe although there is no evidence of that being unequivocally the case, especially given chief executive Peter Kenyon's recent refusal to give a definitive answer on Grant's future. "If the club is not happy with me, no problem," he said. "If I'm not happy with them, and I want to leave, I don't think they will make any problems either."

Grant said that he had only begun to change Chelsea according to his vision and had not wanted to act like "an elephant in a china shop and break everything" when he arrived. "If you want to be a big club, you need to be between the lions of Europe. That means you need to be in the final. We've reached that and now want more. In the next years you will see the development. I'm not saying we will be in the final every year but we need to be at least challenging and this will not be the last time we are in the final."

Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments