Ferguson anger after Wenger claims Van Nistelrooy cheated

Updated: September 21, 2003, 3:01 PM ET

By Pete Oliver

MANCHESTER, England, Sept 21 - Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson said he has was disappointed with Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger after the Frenchman accused United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy of cheating on Sunday.

Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira was sent off for retaliating to a challenge by Van Nistelrooy, who then missed a penalty in stoppage-time to leave the premier league title rivals with a point each from a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford.

But Wenger claimed that the way Van Nistelrooy reacted to a leg raised by Vieira amounted to cheating.

Asked on Sky Sports if he thought Van Nistelrooy cheated, Wenger replied: "Yes, I think so. Patrick should not have reacted, but again, you punish the consequence more than the source of the problem."

As a result of Van Nistelrooy's reaction, Vieira was sent off for the ninth time in his Arsenal career, the 52nd red card in Wenger's seven-year reign at Highbury.

Wenger's comments infuriated Ferguson.

"I am not hear to talk about Arsenal's disciplinary record," the United manager said. "The world has done that for a long time and knows all about it.

"But I have heard what Arsene Wenger said and I am really disappointed.

"I can defend Ruud van Nistelrooy. His reaction was understandable because Patrick Vieira stuck a foot out at him and he turned to the referee as if to say 'what's he playing at.'"

Wenger said that if Vieira was red-carded, Van Nistelrooy should also have been.

"Van Nistelrooy does not help," said Wenger.

"He's a great player but his attitude is always to be looking for provocation and diving.

"He seems like a nice boy, but on the pitch he doesn't always show fair behaviour."

Vieira also accused Van Nistelrooy.

"We were very disappointed about the way Van Nistelrooy reacted," the Frenchman told Sky Sports. "In this country, everyone speaks about spirit and the fair play and I think Van Nistelrooy did not respect that today.

"I think it was really hard to be sent off in that way, I am really disappointed. I think the ref got it wrong this time because of Van Nistelrooy's reaction because I didn't really touch him at all. I raised my leg but I didn't touch him.

"It is difficult for me to accept the way I was sent off. I really hope that when the referee watches the tape he will change his mind."

He also said Arsenal would appeal against the decision.

WIDELY CONDEMNED

Last weekend Arsenal's Robert Pires was widely condemned for diving to win a penalty in their 1-1 draw with Portsmouth at Highbury.

Vieira and Van Nistelrooy had to be kept apart as the France international left the field.

But there were ugly scenes again after the final whistle when Arsenal's players, led by Martin Keown, who was penalised for pushing Diego Forlan, celebrated Van Nistelrooy's penalty miss.

TV pictures showed Arsenal's Ray Parlour slapping Van Nistelrooy in the chest.

Those scenes recalled a fracas at the end of the teams' league meeting in 1991 which led to both clubs being docked points.

"The penalty was a little bit generous in the last second and provoked a lot of incidents," Wenger said.

"If you want to convince me that Martin is the devil and Van Nistelrooy is an angel you will have a problem, because I think Van Nistelrooy is quite provocative and I would say every Arsenal player would confirm that.

"Players are not happy when an opponent scores a goal. Their reaction was not at him missing the penalty, it was more at his overall attitude during the game."

The result extended Arsenal's unbeaten start to the season and took them back to the top of the table. Wenger was delighted with his players' response after losing 3-0 at home to Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday.

"We showed a great spirit today. To come here and get a draw was a great result," he said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index