December 24th, 2012
01:57 PM ET

RVP controversy: Has Ferguson gone too far?

Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was furious with Ashley Williams for kicking the ball at Robin van Persie's head.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was furious with Ashley Williams for kicking the ball at Robin van Persie's head.

Alex Ferguson is a master of the post-match interview, but you have to wonder if he has maybe overstepped the mark this time.

The veteran Manchester United manager furiously demanded that the English football authorities take action after his star striker Robin van Persie was hit on the head by a fiercely struck ball when he was lying prone on the pitch during Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Swansea.

“He could have been killed,” raged the Scot in an interview with British match broadcaster Sky Sports.

The subject of Fergie’s ire, Swansea’s Welsh defender Ashley Williams, was booked by the referee along with Van Persie after the Dutchman leapt angrily from the ground to confront his alleged attacker.

Ferguson called for Williams to be banned “for a long time” after committing “the most dangerous thing I've seen on a football field for many years.”

This accusation, from a man both feared and respected by journalists around the world, went unquestioned at the time – but Swansea’s kit man wasn’t having any of it.

Michael Eames took to Twitter after the match and pointed out that Ferguson – who famously hit his own player David Beckham in the face with a boot – should not be throwing stones from inside a glass house.

“Ferguson v Beckham (just a bruise) Cantona v fan (slight overreaction) Keane v Haaland (innocent mistake) Williams v RvP (attempted murder)” he wrote.

Eric Cantona, one of Ferguson’s most influential signings, was banned for nine months for launching a flying karate kick at a Crystal Palace fan after being sent off during a match in 1995.

Then there’s former United captain Roy Keane, who admitted that he purposefully tried to injure Manchester City opponent Alf-Inge Haaland in a match in 2001 as retaliation for comments the Norwegian made about him almost four years previously.

Williams insists that he did not intend to strike the ball at Van Persie’s head, that he was just kicking the ball away in frustration. Because the referee’s whistle had already blown, that in itself was a bookable offense.

United striker Wayne Rooney also played down the incident.

"I think it's one of those things," he said. "The whistle's gone, the defender has gone to clear and it's hit him in the head. I think probably the right decision from the referee."

Williams has copped abuse from angry United fans on Twitter – as has one woman in the U.S. who shares his name.

Ashley Williams, a lawyer who lives in Springfield, Missouri, went to the trouble of posting a split picture of their two faces.

“Yes, the resemblance is uncanny, really,” she wrote.

The incident has already split opinion among CNN readers.

“I think Ferguson's actions were right …If the ball wasn't there, he could have probably ended in the hospital!” wrote Eucamon.

Mark Milligan responded: “VP is a drama queen and so is Fergie.”

What do you think? Was Ferguson’s reaction justified? Or was he just trying to deflect attention from a disappointing result that meant his team was left with a four-point league lead rather than six?

One of Ferguson’s Premier League colleagues believes that the matter will blow over.

"He genuinely felt that, I should think, at the time. You do. If one of your players gets hurt or you think he was in danger, you are going to protect him,” said Alan Pardew, whose Newcastle team travel to United's Old Trafford on Wednesday.

"I think the one with Van Persie was perhaps not as bad as Alex at first imagined. Sometimes from the sideline, it looks a lot worse at the time.”

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Bloody hell Swansea Ashley Williams. Not fit to be a human being, not to mention a footballer, or worse, a captain!
    If not everyone else can do so & not be punished.

    December 24, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Reply
  2. Kwame

    Hell yeah, Fergie was damn right !. That was a reckless and needless act. It could certainly be fatal , VP was just lucky to have survived it. Ashley Williams gotta be banned to deter other idiots from doing same.

    December 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  3. Paul

    In all honesty the ball kicked to the back head of RVP was just as dangerous knowing with the full view and knowledge that an opposing player is down and facing the other way. Did the Swansea player really had .... really?

    December 24, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
  4. jeff jack

    lol you're all drama queens – it was obvious that it was an accident – maybe you all should take up knitting, just to be safe like......

    December 24, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  5. Spike

    Oh get a grip – No action from the FA, two of his previous managers saying Ash is not a nasty player, other managers saying it wasn't a big deal & Ash himself denying he kicked the ball at his head on purpose & wanting to apologise anyway. So, Ash didn't 'intentionally' kick the ball at his head. End of.

    December 24, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Reply
  6. Roland

    I think it was dangerous,you see it all the time though.The FA should be more strict about this.RvP frustrates defenders because they cant stop him,he scores from any angle whenever he wants! So they try to take him out of the game.Just shameful.

    December 24, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  7. Bruce McCormack

    I'm think Ferguson was over the top there have been many times when players have done stupid things without thinking but to ban Williams for life is plain stupid. Once again it's someone who has said or done something stupid only this time it's Ferguson.

    December 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  8. fernando

    Is this the same Van Persie who played for the thugs from the Netherlands against Spain in the 2010 final? Please! Man up and just play football.

    December 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  9. Millertime

    Pity he didn't kick it harder! And for good measure RVP should have been red carded for his response – any other non-ManU player would have!

    December 24, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  10. Man Fan

    While the kick was certainly not a pretty sight, I think that everyone over reacted. Players get hit by balls that are kicked VERY hard all of the time and no one is in a fuss. Yes, it RVP in the head, but I just can't for the life of me think that anyone's reaction was appropriate. A manager should always defend his players, but I think Sir Alex may have gone a bit overboard this time.

    December 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  11. John

    From the replay, I'd say Fergie has a point. Certainly did not seem accidental to me.

    December 24, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  12. Blaze

    Oh shut up you lot, and quit being hypocritical. Fergie has been int he game long enough to know that wasn't anything compared to what him and some of his wards have inflicted on other players over the years. Scholes, Cantona, Shawcross, Fergie himself... he needs to swallow a chill pill, and quit being a drama queen.

    December 24, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Reply
  13. chibuzor okolie

    Whilst Ashley's act is inexcusable, it is obvious Fergie and Manchester United have an unhealthy influence over match officials in the Premiership. It is not unscrupulous to postulate that without the (c)overt assistance of match officials over the last couple of seasons, Man U would be a few titles short.

    December 24, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  14. Fernando A. Santos

    I think the time has come for Mr. Alex Ferguson to retire. His judgments are starting to be a bit foggy.

    December 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Reply
  15. KevinT

    I did not see the act, but in all honesty, the ramblings of a man trying to divert attention from a disappointing draw quickly comes to mind. Old man Fergie unfortunately has developed quite the knack for this kind of thing.

    If this can be termed as the "most dangerous thing I've seen on a football field for many years", where has Fergie been all this time his star player Scholes has been chopping players' legs in the name of tackling for the ball?

    December 24, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  16. aweekwith

    I watched the game and at full speed it looks just like Ashley Williams was clearing the ball from his penalty area. No malice intent what-so-ever. Fergie is the king of playing mind games, especially when it comes to the FA.

    December 24, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Reply
  17. tonymanx

    There is no doubt in my book that it was intentional even if it was a moment of insanity.

    December 24, 2012 at 11:01 pm | Reply
  18. SteveT

    VP lucky ?? Christ they play with the equivalent of a bloody beach ball in the PL these days.

    December 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  19. Robbo

    If football was as dangerous as Fergie states, perhaps all footballers should be supplied with helmets? His statement was ridiculous – rugby players put up with much tougher stuff than this!

    December 24, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  20. Mike

    Don't be so ridiculous, how could a ball to the head kill someone, the ball had travelled less than 2ft, nowhere near enough velocity to knock you out never mind kill you. Fergie is just a miserable old windbag who just deflects attention from the fact his team played rubbish, his team cost in excess of 200 million, Swansea cost a little over 10 million. Ha ha, ha!

    December 25, 2012 at 12:50 am | Reply
  21. Nnoruka Udechukwu

    I watched the replay . That kick was aimed and quite premeditated. The wistle had gone and there was RVP on the floor. Williams was reckless and Ferguson is justified.

    December 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Reply
  22. Rob

    Mate sir Alex is one of the greatest coaches ever he is a bit like royalty he can misbehave a bit and get away with it, because he is such a high calaber person.

    December 25, 2012 at 2:02 am | Reply
  23. Suba

    I can not agree more – if there ever was a drama queen, Ferguson it is.

    December 25, 2012 at 3:07 am | Reply
  24. Kent R. Sailer

    Histerical, idiodic, and truly irresponsible for a coach to stir sentiments. Does Mr. Ferguson ever watch the game? Violent tackles, tackles from behind, elbows to the head etc,are the norm in todays game. Mr Ferguson on a free kick there is a wall set up 10yds from a ball. The ONLY purpose of this wall is to get hit "Block" the ball with your body. When a defender slides putting his body in front of a shot on goal (The ball is travelling much faster & harder). Please Mr Ferguson, Man U. played against an inspired team in Swansea and Man U. couldn't win that match. Enough with the histerics and always playing the martyr when things don't go your way. I will not go so far as to say "shut-up" but please think before you speak and don't instigate and try to influence REFEREES – the FANS – or the FA, you and Man U. get enough breaks (decisions).

    December 25, 2012 at 3:25 am | Reply
  25. Jimbo

    AF is a moron. He is a disgrace to football. He thinks that he can threaten the match officials and the FA with his post-match interviews. The English FA should bring rules to control this type of nonsense. MANU will be better without this moron.

    December 25, 2012 at 3:38 am | Reply
  26. Abdulla

    A life threatining act? Really Fergie? That's the silliest comment I have heard for a really long time. It was just a ball ffs, and people get hit by it all the time. I have never heard of someone narrowly escaping death because a ball has hit him. If anything, Fergie should be fined for saying such tasetless comments.

    United fans need to stop being idiotic as well and follow whatever their manager says, depite it obviously being way too exaggerated.

    December 25, 2012 at 4:20 am | Reply
  27. Chubbs

    please people, get real. maybe should they both have a go at broadway or so if this goes on. its football and its needless to mention fergies own escapades and missing anger control. the man is a hypocrite and it is necessary to shut him up asap. no manager should have so much power as he does

    December 25, 2012 at 7:33 am | Reply
  28. Jason

    No. The answer is no. He hasn't.

    December 25, 2012 at 9:02 am | Reply
  29. Football fan

    It's normal for a coach to over protect his key player. Other top coaches in English Premier League may do the same I guess. By the way, that Swansea player did not show any remorse or offer an apology. Based on TV replay, his action is dangerous. It's easy to condemn the coach because RVP still alive. Imagine worse scenario. That Swansea player should be a given a football lesson

    December 25, 2012 at 9:09 am | Reply
  30. Mike

    What a load of rubbish, again Fergie going over the top. If what he says is true and any other muppet thinks its true then the FA will have to ban heading the ball in case someone is killed and they are sued. It was that dangerous he got up immediately, please come into the real world you bunch of wooseys.

    December 25, 2012 at 11:24 am | Reply
  31. Phil

    In any case, Ashley Williams should not have kicked the ball after the whistle had gone off. He clearly made a mistake and should be taken to task for it. As for the seriousness of the injury that it could have caused to RVP, it is a matter that must be addressed by FA. They must look into the circumstances, analyze Williams' intentions, the force used in the kick and determine if this could have caused serious injury or not. FA may then decide what action to take. At the moment, the journalists and fans on both sides are making much noise. I think FA is the right body to address this question. However, one thing: Ferguson rarely ever talks rubbish. He always has an axe to grind, true, but he knows his stuff for sure. Don't take him at the words of the sports journalists.

    December 25, 2012 at 11:48 am | Reply
  32. JC

    It wasn't intentional. He was trying to clear the ball. RVP's head just happened to be in the way. It didn't even hurt him, he was up in less than a second, waving is arms about in anger. Have any of you had a football kicked in your head from close range? It hurts a lot. And then the pain goes and you get on with it.
    Ferguson was just bitter that his team couldn't beat Swansea.

    December 25, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  33. mike

    I think it was a disgraceful incident and Williams should have been given a red card. Very poor decision by the ref.

    December 25, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Reply
  34. Bent Frank

    Perhaps they should suspend Williams for a game and force him to sit in a room with Piers Morgan for 6 hours. That'll teach him!

    December 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  35. Dan

    Swansea kit man is spot on. SAF over reacting as usual.

    December 25, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  36. Salako Daniel

    I really go with SAF. That could have caused some concoctions which may be fatal if RVP was unlucky. It was a dangerous hit really and such should be prevented by more severe penalties...

    December 25, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  37. jackson

    Why should he Kick the ball after referee blown the Whistle. that was deliberate attempt. in his heart, William know he did it purposefully.

    December 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  38. siyambonga

    and the winner for drama queen of the year goes to Sir Alex Ferguson. I wonder why the press chooses to indulge him all the time . At this rate he might as well have filed an attmepted murder charge against the swansea player..Wouldnt put it past him

    December 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  39. Papa Sly

    “Ferguson v Beckham (just a bruise) Cantona v fan (slight overreaction) Keane v Haaland (innocent mistake) Williams v RvP (attempted murder)”... Says it all, doesn't it?

    December 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  40. David Lee

    From the replay, the Referee was just in front of the scene and yet did nothing and instead booked both players. If he has poor eye sight, he should find another vocation. He should at least try to be unbiased. What a shame. If I am an official referee, I would be ashamed to acknowledge that I am a referee.

    December 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Reply
  41. Bade AKINS

    Missed the game but my son who is a United fan felt it was a dangerous act from William, I have all respect for Ferguson but honestly I feel it is high time he stepped down one for his age and most importantly he reminds me of my grand dad – talks too much and out of sync which has to do with age. At that age you complain about virtually everything so he is acting his age and thats nature. Same Ferguson complains on added injury time whenver United is behind. We will never work alone. Go Liverpool

    December 25, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Reply
  42. Benson Evbuomwan

    I think there have been more dangerous football incidents in the Premier League. Fergie's claim it's the worst he ever seen is an over-reaction. But let's not over play down the incident. A hard hit on certain parts of the head can affect the brain and lead to loss of consciousness. The damage to the brain could be more or less severe depending on the level of impact. That is why any suspected head injury in the field of play receives urgentbattention from the Ref. Was Williams action deliberate? I don't think so. Everything happened so quickly. RVP was just raising his head same time Williams hit the ball; then the hit on RVP's head. Williams got booked for kicking the ball away after the Ref's whistle. I think that is sufficient punishment for such incidents. Fergie now knows his comments went too far but pride will not let him admit it.

    December 26, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Reply
  43. Tush Edwin

    Missed the incident but i think everybody here is responding only coz he/she is for or against Man-u! In such a case it was a dangerous act! Gameshort!

    December 28, 2012 at 4:13 am | Reply
  44. Pamodrino

    Shame on you CNN for asking such a dumb question. If heading soccer (football) leads to brain damage what makes you think that Swansea's Williams kicked a loose ball at close range cannot cause a traumatic brain injury to RVP? You see all you commenting on SAF overreacting to this incident; it is already proven that executing1000 to 1500 headers a year can lead to five regions on the brain according to a research by the Radiological Society of North America. Please look it up before saying SAF was overreacting – enough said.

    December 28, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  45. Kent R. Sailer

    O.K. So Mr. Ferguson does it AGAIN, and is not punished AGAIN by the FA. When are referees and the FA going to get some B...s Mr. Ferguson is getting to be embarrasssing. He should be fined for 1) encroaching on the field during a match, 2) bringing the game in disrepute by questioning calls and for speaking against his fellow coaches in negative terms in press conferences. Come on enough is enough, any repeat any other coach would have been sent to the stands and suspended for a few games.

    December 29, 2012 at 3:11 am | Reply
  46. Pamodrino

    ......headers can lead to damage on five regions of the brain, that is!

    December 29, 2012 at 8:06 am | Reply
  47. Dan

    Sir Alice Whingerson speaks!

    December 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Reply
  48. sister cate

    Really all this fuss! the energy with which RVP got up and his tasteless response to a foul show that he was not seriously hurt...moreover, i think the defender was trying to clear the ball away and might not have heard the whistle...he also reacted well after the fact when VP wanted to fight him he held back...lastly, Inside the goal area you do not take chances especially when you are playing against a team that has influence with match officials like man utd were a frustrated lot and they reacted badly and without callously recomment that someones career should be ruined just like that brings a bad spirit to football...

    December 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  49. herb maier

    Ferguson is becoming a disgrace to English football. His last comment minimizing or ridiculing another Premier League team was disgraceful. He simply has no class and team management should come to realize that it is time to put this idiot out to pasture.

    December 31, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Reply
  50. heyomayo

    He is overreacting. Attempted murder? Oh please!

    January 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  51. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Footballers have a duty to protect the beauty of the Beautiful Game. Footballers, managers, coaches, officials and fans are all human and sometimes are unable to control their emotions. We need to keep going and move on.

    January 3, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  52. DuhDave

    And, for those who have not been struck in the back of the head at relatively range by a soccer ball, unexpectedly. I'd happily offer you the remaining use of my right eye that you might understand some of the less popular results. For a professional footballer, I would anticipate the eye damage could end a career.

    Not detached retina, which is partially repairable, but detached humor, which apparently is not. It's kind of like having insects always at the edge of your vision. Distracting. Oh, yeah. And can lead to detached retina and the permanent sight loss that can entail.

    Murder? Maybe not, but if that errant foot had connected with head rather than ball? Possible.

    January 5, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Reply
  53. B A Whyte

    Been a ManU & Stoke (since they came up) fan for decades, closely follow Euro football, & saw the incident on my media set-up. I replayed that action 10X in slow-mo. If anyone has any question about Williams intent, take a hard look at the action before, during & after. There is no question in my mind (some will say biased mind, which may be true to a very small extent) that Williams was totally aware of a what he was doing. His actions were extremely dangerous & could have resulted in very serious injury. The fact that it did not is very fortunate, but totally irrelevant. Strangely, he never offered an apology or showed any concern for the player he fouled, and received a yellow card for.
    – Willaims is a very experienced player at the top level of football. Meaning, that the vaste majority of fouls committed at this level of play are intentional. They know exactly where they are in relation to other players and what their body parts are doing! Forget what commentators say about "Accidental" and "No Intent." That's what they get paid to say, so that no BIAS can be attributable to their reporting. They perfuntorily excuse the rediculous calls, or missed calls, by Refs & Line Judges that any reasonable viewer can see with such clarity. So, my call is he should have been Red Carded with a careful review by the FA.
    – Having said all that, I think SAF worded his complaint very poorly. He made no subsequent attempt to temper his words with reason. Sure, his remarks were stupid and "Over the Top." BUT, are his remarks the real issue? Doesn't the media HYPE redirect the issue to what will sell to the public and away from the primary issue? Would the entire incident beem viewed differently if RBV had been injured, perhaps very seriously?

    January 6, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  54. Jake

    Fergison is clue-less. He just want his only 'good' striker to be buble wrapped. Bless him.

    January 9, 2013 at 8:40 am | Reply
  55. Erik

    So everyone forgotten the headbutt RvP gave to that keeper then?
    RvP, brilliant with a ball but a drama queen

    January 11, 2013 at 10:23 pm | Reply
  56. beencolderhere

    RVP should be examined for any damage that may have been done. The results will determine the outcome. Penalty commensurate with damage done. Think assault, man slaughter. Intent or non intent.

    January 12, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Reply
  57. MedicOnDuty

    This is just Fergie being a drama queen. I've watched a few clips of this incident and while I can't comment on whether if was intentional (I don't know what Ashley Williams thinks) I can tell that wouldn't have done anything remotely harmful. It's nowhere near the high-velocity crosses that may come from a corner or a free kick, yet Fergie evidently doesn't have a problem with those. The clearance itself has no power on it, none at all. If RVP had taken a free kick to the face, and it could be proven that the kicker intentionally aimed for his had, then I could understand it. But in this scenario, SAF is just making a mountain out a molehill, trying to bully the refs and the FA by calling them out in a post-match press conference.

    January 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  58. j4ka

    fergie got a very small memory cantona crystal palaceEVERY BODY IS KUNG FOO FIGHTING

    January 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  59. Martin

    SAF was so concerned he didnt even have Van Pussy checked out but allowed him to continue playing.
    As usual a reaction in an attempt to influence a young referee for future fixtures. Its time the man retired he is becoming delusional.

    January 20, 2013 at 5:59 am | Reply
  60. Shumi Tefera

    Please Furge bring Ronaldo to the old traford. please please----

    January 22, 2013 at 6:53 am | Reply

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