Wenger: 'Rooney told players he wasn't touched'

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The Independent Football

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, launched a bitter attack on Wayne Rooney, the referee Mike Riley and Manchester United's tactics after Arsenal surrendered their 49-game unbeaten record at Old Trafford yesterday.

The Frenchman was already angry with Riley for failing to dismiss Rio Ferdinand for a foul on Fredrik Ljungberg during the first half , then for failing to spot Ruud van Nistelrooy's apparent rake on Ashley Cole and finally for not clamping down on a succession of fouls on Jose Antonio Reyes. But what tipped Wenger over the edge was Riley's decision to award a penalty for Sol Campbell's tackle on Wayne Rooney 18 minutes from time.

"Rooney told my players he had not been touched," Wenger said. "There is a deep feeling of injustice among my players because it is quite clear there was no contact. It feels like we have been robbed.

"Sol Campbell told me there had been no contact and in situations like that, the referee has to be sure. It didn't look obvious to me but look at the record of the referee in matches involving Manchester United. That tells you all you need to know."

Riley has a history of awarding penalties for the Old Trafford side, including two in one game against Liverpool a couple of seasons ago.

Wenger's counterpart at United, Sir Alex Ferguson, believed the Leeds official had an impossible job, claiming that Patrick Vieira was running the game in the first half because "he was always by the referee's side".

Wenger said: "We are not happy about the penalty, or the tackle by Rio Ferdinand on Freddie Ljungberg, or the fact Reyes was kicked off the park. Ashley Cole has a big bruise on his shin and nearly didn't come out for the second half after the incident with van Nistelrooy.

"But these type of tactics are exactly what I expected from Manchester United. This is what they always do when they are in a difficult situation and playing against us.

"It's disappointing because we were the better team. They hardly had a chance in either half before the penalty, so it's natural we are not happy. But we can only look after our own performance, we can't do anything about the referee."

Ferguson said of the penalty: "It looked clear enough to me. If someone gets brought down in the area, the decision is automatic. As for the Ferdinand situation, the referee got it right again. Ljungberg wasn't getting the ball, he wasn't beating Rio for pace, so the next best thing is to try and get the referee to make a decision."