Give ref a chance says Ferguson

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November 25, 2006 7:00pm CST
AFP November 25, 2006 LONDON (AFP) - Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson has called on players not to crowd round and intimidate referee Howard Webb in Sunday's top-of-the-table match against Chelsea at Old Trafford. After two seasons of almost complete dominance, Jose Mourinho's Chelsea find themselves trailing United at the head of the Premiership and face the prospect of a six-point deficit if Ferguson's side secure a home victory this weekend. The stakes could not be higher and with Graham Poll on annual leave, 35-year-old Webb has been handed the task of controlling the teams. It is arguably the biggest game of Webb's career and emphasises what high hopes referees' chief Keith Hackett has for the FIFA official. Hardly renowned as a lover of referees, Ferguson is aware of the difficulties Webb could face in a game which means so much. And he has called on players from both sides to maintain their composure as the battle for points intensifies. "He is a young referee and we should let him get on with the game and give him a chance," said Ferguson. "As long as he is fair, no-one can complain. I certainly hope it is not a game where we see players start to crowd round the referee as has happened so often recently." Surrounding officials is something Chelsea players do on a regular basis, although United can hardly claim to be on the moral high ground given Roy Keane led the infamous pursuit of Andy D'Urso after he had awarded Middlesbrough a penalty at Old Trafford six years ago. For the sake of everyone involved, it is to be hoped the contest is not decided by a major decision from the official. Ferguson certainly believes his players have the potential to repeat their success in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago, which would take Chelsea into uncharted territory during their time under Mourinho's control. "Who is to say what their reaction might be," said Ferguson, when asked how Chelsea might respond to falling so far behind. "For all I know, they might go out and buy another six players. "What we have to do is get ourselves into a position where we can find out what happens. You cannot hide the fact this is a great opportunity for us. "Over the last two years Chelsea have always been nine or 10 points ahead, which has made it very difficult for us to peg them back. "This year we have got out of the blocks. For the first time we are in front and have the prospect of us going six points clear, which would have them chasing us rather than the other way round."
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