United will not appeal against Fletcher's red

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The Independent Online

Manchester United will not appeal against the sending-off of Darren Fletcher because the player was dismissed for two bookable offences.

The midfielder was sent off in the second half of Manchester United's 1-0 Premiership win at Middlesbrough on Sunday. Their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, criticised the referee, Matt Messias, who dismissed Fletcher after he received a second yellow card for fouling Bolo Zenden.

Ferguson said: "When Darren was sent off it made it more difficult for us. He is a 19-year-old lad and it was ridiculous. I think the crowd got to him [the referee]. We will have to have a look at the video but there is plenty of evidence for an appeal." But a United spokesman, Paddy Harverson, said yesterday: "We will not be appealing because under the rules as we understand them, you cannot appeal against two yellow cards."

The United captain, Roy Keane, has stressed that failure to bring in at least one new striker in next month's transfer window will place a huge burden on the man his club cannot afford to lose, the striker Ruud van Nistelrooy.

"Please God nothing happens to Ruud, because maybe we are not as strong up front as people think we are," Keane said. "The spirit among the squad is outstanding but I still think we could do with another one or two players. The manager is always looking at the bigger picture but squad-wise we came up a little bit short last year."

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, has played down rumours that Sylvain Wiltord could join Paris St-Germain. The PSG coach, Vahid Halilhodzic, admitted he was looking for new players, with Wiltord appearing to fit the bill. But Wenger, who bought his fellow Frenchman from Bordeaux after his country's Euro 2000 success, will not let his player go when the transfer window opens on Thursday.

"Wiltord will not leave the club during the transfer window," Wenger said. "It is very simple, he will stay with us. Sylvain has been experiencing difficult times during which he lost his confidence. But now he is getting better, he is in better mental condition and he is motivated to come back."

Wenger said he has offered the striker an extension to his deal, which expires in June. From January he will be able to hold talks with other teams. "I have asked him to extend his contract with us, and for me the discussions about that will be on stand-by until March or April 2004," Wenger said.

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