BIRMINGHAM, England, Feb 11, 2010 (AFP) - Sir Alex Ferguson belied his reputation as a referee-baiter by insisting he had no problems with Nani's sending off in a 1-1 draw away to Aston Villa.
Referee Peter Walton (R) gives a red card to Nani during the English Premier League football match against Aston Villa at Villa Park on February 10, 2010. AFP PHOTO
Wednesday's result left champions United a point behind Premier League leaders Chelsea.
It also meant Nani, shown a straight red card for a two-footed challenge on Stiliyan Petrov, would be suspended for United's next three matches, including this month's League Cup final against Villa at Wembley.
Ferguson, who earlier this season received a two-match touchline ban for criticising referee Alan Wiley's fitness, had no complaints with Peter Walton's decision to reduce United to 10 men in the 29th minute at Villa Park.
"It's a red card, Nani went in double-footed and he can't do that," Ferguson said. "It was a naive tackle and the referee had no option.
"But Nani is not a malicious player.
"He has been doing so well for us and we'll now miss him for the League Cup final.
"He's also missing two league games which is just as important."
United's dropping of two points was compounded by the sight of veteran winger Ryan Giggs leaving Villa Park with his arm in a sling after a innocuous collision with Steve Sidwell late in the second half.
Despite the loss of Nani, United should have won this match and knocked Chelsea off the top of the Premier League, with the Londoners surprisingly beaten at Everton on Wednesday.
"Even with ten men we should have won the game," said Ferguson. "We were the better team and tried to get the result.
"Credit to the players, they were absolutely brilliant. Every player worked their socks off.
"We have sent Ryan for an X-ray to see if there is any damage. It is very painful but hopefully he is going to be all right."
United arrived at Villa Park on a revenge mission after suffering defeat at Old Trafford in December.
Carlos Cuellar though headed Villa in front with the club's first home league goal of 2010 before James Collins's unfortunate own goal hauled United level.
But then Nani was dismissed for a moment of madness following a scything lunge on Petrov just before the half hour.
Villa manager Martin O'Neill's bid to record a season double over Ferguson never looked like being successful, however, and even when a man down it was United who appeared the more dangerous side.
O'Neill was left rueing Villa's failure to capitalise on their numerical advantage but insisted this game would have no bearing on the Wembley final.
"That will be a different set of circumstances, a different environment," he said. "When it comes round, we should go into the game with plenty of confidence."
He added: "When they had a man sent-off I was hoping we would be able to take the initiative. In the second half we didn't create enough and make enough use of the extra man.
"If you'd asked me at the start of season would you take four points against United I'd have been pretty happy with that."
The result left Villa seventh in the table, two points outside the top four who will qualify for next season's Champions League.
Although they are fifth, Manchester City are level on points with fourth-placed Liverpool and have two games in hand on their Merseyside rivals.
"Manchester City would have been delighted with the results (on Wednesday)," said O'Neill.
"Considering their resources they would be strong contenders. But we are in the race and we will try our very best."