Man United angry as FA clears Gerrard over elbow
Liverpool skipper will play at Old Trafford on Sunday despite incident against Portsmouth
If Liverpool somehow derail Manchester United's push for the Premier League this weekend Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to reach levels of apoplexy even he rarely attains, thanks to the FA's decision not to ban Steven Gerrard for the forearm smash he executed on Portsmouth's Michael Brown on Monday night.
United are said to be furious that while Gerrard, England's most recent captain, has been spared punishment, the official England skipper, Rio Ferdinand, was handed a four-match ban after a similar incident against Hull earlier in the season.
They believe the FA is guilty of double standards, particularly as Ferdinand's ban was increased from three to four games simply because he had the temerity to appeal.
Gerrard is now set to play at Old Trafford and United's sense of injustice only adds to the tension in the build-up to one of the biggest fixtures of the season.
The FA said they were powerless to act against the Liverpool captain, who swung an arm into Brown's face as the pair chased a ball late in the game, as the matter was dealt with by referee Stuart Atwell at the time.
Regulations say that the FA will not punish players retrospectively if the match official sees the alleged offence. However, the governing body approached Atwell to confirm that the foul he awarded at the time was for the swinging arm and he told them that it was - putting Gerrard in the clear.
Most commentators felt Gerrard was lucky to escape with just a talking to after sending Brown flying. The Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez responded to the incident by getting his captain off the pitch as fast as possible, substituting him for Yossi Benayoun.
It is not the first time United have taken umbrage with the FA and Liverpool this season. During Ferdinand's unsuccessful appeal against his ban for violent conduct United pointed out that the FA had not charged Javier Mascherano over a similar incident with the Leeds player Jermaine Beckford in the Carling Cup.
Gerrard seems to be sailing close to the wind at the moment. He was also lucky to escape censure against Wigan after TV pictures showed him apparently giving referee Andre Marriner a two-fingered salute.
Despite the antipathy between the two clubs they are united in a common hatred of their American owners and there has been talk that both sets of fans could take part in co-ordinated protests on Sunday.
One of the most influential politicians in Liverpool added his voice to the chorus of disapproval against Tom Hicks and George Gillett this week. Peter Kilfoyle, the MP for Liverpool Walton, said the Liverpool's owners put the club at risk of "financial disaster" thanks to the £237m debt they have taken on since 2007.
"I think Liverpool needs to get its ownership changed and sorted once and for all. I don't believe that they any more than Manchester United can continue to carry the kind of debts they're carrying. There's no reason why United and Liverpool can't end up as financial disasters, no reason whatsoever," he said. ·
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