Mourinho withdraws 'cheating' charge levelled at United

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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho repented yesterday, but typically it was only on his terms and in a very limited way.

Jose Mourinho repented yesterday, but typically it was only on his terms and in a very limited way.

The Chelsea manager accepted the word "cheat" - used to describe what he saw as the tendency of Manchester United players to go down too easily in Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final - may have been wrong. He was also at pains to point out that he had no criticisms of the match referee, Neale Barry, the man Mourinho claimed Sir Alex Ferguson attempted to influence at half-time. But in all other aspects of this minor spat between the two clubs, Mourinho, as is his wont, made no concessions.

Having failed to attract a Football Association charge for his accusation that Ferguson spoke to the referee during the interval at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho may be summoned to Soho Square to explain his remark, uttered on Chelsea's television station, that in the second half the game was: "whistle and whistle, fault and fault, cheat and cheat".

"I know I could be punished for pointing out that somebody did something wrong so if the FA do it, I think it will be unfair," he said. "I don't think they should punish Sir Alex for what he did; I think they should just tell referees not to allow it whether they are the top manager in the country, a guy who has just arrived, or a lower-division manager. I always say what I think and feel.

"I am not worried by the consequences. I live better with the consequences than with my mouth closed and keeping what I feel I have to say inside."

In Manchester yesterday, Ferguson confessed to being extremely relaxed about these latest comments, stating that Mourinho's real target was not United but the referee for this afternoon's match at Tottenham.

"He says in his own words that he tries to influence the referee before every game," the United manager said. "What he said had nothing to do with what happened on Wednesday; it has everything to do with the game against Tottenham and he is trying to influence the referee there. He has opened a can of worms for himself, because he has had some luck."

The fortune Ferguson referred to was Barry's denying Louis Saha what appeared to be a clear penalty, and the infamous decision by Mike Riley not to award Liverpool a spot-kick for Tiago's blatant handball at Anfield on New Year's Day.

Barry may also have missed an incident where Didier Drogba made a grab at Quinton Fortune, which appeared more violent than the gentle push Wayne Rooney gave Bolton's Tal Ben Haim that saw the United striker given a three-match ban. If Ferguson did attempt to influence Barry during the interval, it appeared not to have done him much good.

Ferguson said: "The more interesting thing was John Terry, who said the referee wouldn't listen to him. Why wouldn't he listen to him? Do other referees listen to him? It's quite interesting. I have never heard a captain say that before."

After the tie, Mourinho and Ferguson shared a drink in the manager's office at Stamford Bridge, although Ferguson complained about the quality of the wine. But, although Mourinho said he discussed the incident with his counterpart, this is something Ferguson flatly denies. The United manager stated that Mourinho's assistant, Steve Clarke, was also critical of Barry's performance.

Attempting to defuse matters with charm, Mourinho said with a broad smile: "When we go to Manchester United, I will take a very good bottle of wine because the wine we drank was very bad and he was complaining. It is my birthday when we go to Old Trafford, so I will go with a beautiful bottle of Portuguese wine to enjoy with him at the end of the game."

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