Manchester United opt to suffer in silence

Updated: Mar 07, 2011, 21:51 PM IST

London: Manchester United were licking their wounds in silence on Monday after defeat by Liverpool asked serious questions about their Premier League title credentials which manager Alex Ferguson refused to answer.

Ferguson cancelled his pre-game news conference on Friday and declined to speak to broadcasters of Sunday`s 3-1 defeat at Anfield in a media blackout that does not block out the fact that his team have lost three of the last five league games. Even the club`s in-house television channel was without reaction from the manager and their website (www.manutd.com) was also starved of new quotes.

The silent treatment follows a charge of improper conduct handed to Ferguson last week by the Football Association after he criticised referee Martin Atkinson following Tuesday`s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

The Scot is appealing but if he is unsuccessful he could face time away from the dugout as he has a suspended two-match ban hanging over him from a previous incident.

He has declined to hold news conferences after Premier League games for several years and has refused to speak to the BBC since it aired a 2004 documentary that investigated the business activities of one of his sons, then a football agent.

His increased shunning of the media coincides with back-to-back defeats that have left United just three points ahead of Arsenal who have a game in hand.

A team unbeaten in the league until just over four weeks ago, earning plaudits for grinding out results sometimes without playing well, were exposed by Liverpool as lacking adequate cover for first-choice absences and looking sluggish.

Ugly Scenes

Wes Brown and Chris Smalling, replacements for usual centre backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, did not show the same class and composure as Liverpool`s tricky Luis Suarez dribbled and skipped past them.

Suarez`s nifty footwork, ball skills and eye for a pass were everything that was missing from United, even if their past master of these attributes, Ryan Giggs, did his best.

The fact is that Giggs is 37 and although still in incredible shape and a perpetual danger, he was made to look his age by the nifty Suarez who unselfishly engineered almost every Liverpool move forward and each of Dirk Kuyt`s three goals.

Winger Nani, who normally provides much of United`s threat, went off just before halftime with a deep gash in his leg after a high Jamie Carragher tackle. He also gave away the second goal with a misdirected header straight to Kuyt.

Wayne Rooney ran hard but was ineffective and his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov was visibly frustrated with his own poor display.

Midfielder Michael Carrick gave the ball away too much and the absence of the combative Darren Fletcher from the starting line-up was another question United fans would have wanted answered by Ferguson.

To get their campaign back on track United will need to keep cool heads rather than let things boil over like in the ugly scenes towards the end of the first half.

Keeper Edwin Van der Sar was booked for rushing up the field to get involved in a scuffle sparked by Carragher`s poor challenge on Nani and Rafael made a reckless lunge on Lucas to trigger more heated exchanges.

The only United player to break the wall of silence was Ferdinand whose five words on Twitter summed up their day: "Bad result today no excuses".

Bureau Report