Speaking in the wake of Michael Oliver's decision not to award Fulham what seemed a clear penalty at Old Trafford on Monday night, Ferguson argued that Manchester City had also benefited from refereeing decisions, not least when Gareth Barry appeared to bring down Glenn Whelan at Stoke on Saturday evening.
Ferguson also acknowledged that Patrick Vieira was not speaking solely about United when the Manchester City executive made his comments about referees favouring big clubs at home. Vieira was also referring explicitly to the problems of officiating at clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and Milan. "You could go through millions of incidents but maybe the smaller clubs do have a point," Ferguson said, cautiously. "However, somebody said a few years ago that Manchester United always get penalty kicks at Old Trafford but, when you go through the statistics since I have been here, it only averages out at three or three and a half per year. You cannot say that is a lot for an attacking team like ourselves. It has some mileage in the press but most managers believe that the breaks even themselves out.
"However, looking from the referee's position, I can see why he didn't give a penalty when Danny Murphy was brought down because the ball has moved at an angle as Michael Carrick tackles him and from his position it isn't clear – although it was a good claim."
Ferguson also pointed out that Manchester United had suffered possibly the worst decision of the season so far when the linesman, John Flynn, flagged for a penalty after what appeared a perfectly clean tackle by Rio Ferdinand on Newcastle's Hatem Ben Arfa. It was awarded at Old Trafford and cost the champions two points.
As the season reaches its critical phase, Ferguson has no truck with suggestions made by Vieira that Manchester City, having played the better football, merit the title more than United. When Ferguson made a similar remark after Arsenal had won the title at Old Trafford in 2002, Arsène Wenger responded with the words: "Everyone thinks they have the most beautiful wife at home."
Ferguson said that his advantage was not yet a significant one and denied Manchester United had the easier run-in. Before they travel to the Etihad Stadium for the derby, United play four of the bottom six and Everton, who have not won at Old Trafford since 1992. "They were playing good football in the first half of the season, there is no doubt about that," Ferguson said of Roberto Mancini's side. "I recognise that – we were beaten 6-1 here. But a season lasts a bit longer than three months. You can look at all our fixtures and say: 'Blackburn are fighting for their lives, Queens Park Rangers are fighting for their lives, Aston Villa are fighting for their lives, Wigan are fighting for their lives'."
Ferguson said he agreed with his old lieutenant, Gary Neville, that Monday night's encounter at Blackburn might be among the most awkward of Manchester United's remaining fixtures. Despite the fact that United won their record 19th title at Ewood Park, they have won only three of their last 12 games at Blackburn and one of those victories came in the League Cup.
"The important thing is that most of our players have had experience of winning the title – Ferdinand, Evra, Giggs, Scholes, Carrick and Rooney. If they hadn't, we might be in trouble but they are well accustomed to it," he said. "We all know that football can turn around and bite you. That's why we make the point about experience. We have a small advantage, not a great advantage, and one that can change in a single game.
"I was nervous when we were giving the ball away towards the end against Fulham on Monday night. We had a 10-minute period when everyone decided to give the ball away. I went to the touchline because my visibility was important at that time. It was just about getting ourselves over the line."
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image: © Andrea Sartorati