MANCHESTER -- Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson did not attend his post-match press conference after being knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid.
The 71-year-old boss was described as “distraught” over referee Cuneyt Cakir’s decision to award Nani a red card by assistant manager Mike Phelan, who attended the press conference in Sir Alex’s absence.
The match turned after the Portuguese winger’s dismissal, and within 15 minutes United had conceded twice and were denied any comeback heroics by the reflexes of Madrid keeper Diego Lopez.
"We're extremely disappointed,” said Phelan after the match. “Everybody was sat in the dressing room there wondering what had happened and why it happened. It's a very distraught dressing room and a distraught manager and that's why I'm sat here in front of you now."
The Red Devils were furious after the match, with the United players surrounding referee Cakir after the final whistle and Rio Ferdinand sarcastically applauding the decision to send off Nani, and Sir Alex was visibly irate as he exited down the tunnel.
“No I don't think the manager is in any fit state to talk to the referee about the decision,” continued Phelan when asked if Sir Alex has spoken to Cakir. "I think it speaks volumes that I'm sat here, speaking to you at this moment in time and not the manager of this fantastic football club.
“I think we all saw and we all witnessed a decision which seemed very harsh, possibly incredible at that moment in the game.”
Phelan believed United were on top before the controversial dismissal, having scored within minutes of the restart, and felt playing a side of Madrid’s quality with just 10 men was an almost impossible task.
“We felt as though we had the tactics right for the game on such a big occasion,” added Phelan. "We felt as though we were comfortable at times at 0-0 - it's where we wanted to be. We came out, scored the goal which put us in a commanding position.
“After that we were in reasonable control - we created a couple of chances but then the game totally changed. The decision was amazing but we had to carry on. Playing Madrid with 11 men is very difficult. And a game of this magnitude with all the world watching, we feel very disappointed that we ended the game with 10 men.”