Although he has not been speaking to the press after Premiership games, Sir Alex Ferguson did not mince his words yesterday in describing Sunday's 3-1 defeat at Highbury, when two mistakes by Fabien Barthez gifted Arsenal victory.
While he described Manchester United's opponents as "absolutely brilliant", he said the defeat was "an absolute disaster. We were well beaten and outplayed, and that's the main thing.
"It doesn't matter how the goals were scored, we were well beaten anyway. I think you have to give credit firstly to Arsenal, but we were disappointed in our own performance.
With four league defeats already this season, the United manager warned the champions that they can afford only two more league defeats in his swansong season if they are to retain their title.
"We've lost four games, and I think six is the most we can afford to lose, that's been the case over the years," he said. He was particularly disappointed, he said, after telling his players to buck their ideas up in the wake of the 3-1 defeat to Liverpool earlier this month.
"I thought the players had already had their warning. I wouldn't say this is our last chance now, but we've got a lot of work to do."
Barthez could face a Football Association charge of bringing the game into disrepute after his nightmare game.
The Frenchman, ridiculed by the Arsenal supporters for his mistakes in the last 10 minutes, was caught by television cameras raising his middle fingers behind his back towards Highbury's North Bank Stand. The incident was missed by the referee Peter Jones, who earlier had shown the goalkeeper a yellow card after an altercation with Matthew Upson.
The FA will deem Jones to have dealt with that situation via the booking and is unlikely to call upon the evidence of its video advisory panel unless the official admits he should have acted more severely. But the FA is likely to come under pressure to take action against Barthez for his obscene gesture, especially if fans complain to the police. An FA spokesman said: "No action can be taken or considered until all reports are in."
George Best was discharged from a Cyprus clinic yesterday, fully recovered from a stomach bug caught during his stay on the island. The 55-year-old was admitted last Thursday with a gastrointestinal infection.
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