TITLE’S ON HOLD

Ferguson fumes over late penalty snub as United miss the chance
to take a decisive lead over Arsenal

NEWCASTLE UTD 0 vs MANCHESTER UTD 0

MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson risked further censure by the Football Association after branding the decision not to award striker Javier Hernandez a late penalty in last night’s St James’ Park stalemate “an insult”.

Ferguson, who was serving the final game of a five-match touchline ban for comments directed at referee Martin Atkinson following last month’s defeat at Chelsea, was adamant official Lee Probert had made a mistake in booking Hernandez for diving when it appeared Newcastle defender Danny Simpson had made contact with the Mexico striker’s trailing leg.

United extended their lead at the top of the table over Arsenal, who face north London rivals Spurs at White Hart Lane this evening, to seven points having played a game more, and Ferguson was left ruing the fact his team were denied the opportunity to widen the gap still further.

“It was a clear penalty,” he said. “It’s an insult because he’s booked him.

“I thought the referee had a good game tonight, but he’s let himself down by booking the player.

“If it’s not a penalty, fine, but to book him is an insult. There is definitely contact, no doubt about that.”

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew, whose side deserved a point for a gusty and industrious performance, differed with Ferguson’s take on events. “Danny sticks a leg out, which is dangerous, but he didn’t touch the guy, he definitely dived and was looking for it," Pardew said. “I’d like to praise the referee, he was very brave there.”

Newcastle, who were the better side for long periods of

the first-half, might have had a penalty of their own soon after the restart when Anderson checked the progress of Peter Lovenkrands.

Pardew argued: “The Lovenkrands one was a sitter. It was a story of two penalties, one that was for us, and one that wasn’t for them.”

Despite Newcastle’s territorial dominance, it was United who spurned the best chance of the opening period when Tim Krul smothered Hernandez’s effort from point blank range, while the Dutch goalkeeper also did well to deny Wayne Rooney in a one-on-one situation.

United were on the front for most of the second-half but only created one clear-cut chance which Ryan Giggs (left) failed to after Patrice Evra’s low cross teed him up.