Manchester United fear Cristiano Ronaldo could be driven out of England by weak refereeing in the Barclays Premier League.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson and members of the Old Trafford hierarchy had been increasingly confident of keeping the world's best player beyond the end of this season.
But what Ferguson describes as a lack of protection for his player is becoming a major concern for the English and European champions, particularly after Ronaldo clashed with referee Phil Dowd at Craven Cottage in Fulham's surprise 2-0 victory on Saturday.
You're kicking me out: United fear that 'weak referees' could drive Ronaldo out of Old Trafford this summer
The relationship between Ronaldo and leading referees appears tohave disintegrated and, while United accept that the Portugal winger ispartly to blame, they argue his apparent disrespect for match officialsis his response to their failure to protect him.
'We have worst referees God created' Rooney was sent off after a second yellow card when heangrily threw the ball back towards the referee. Paul Scholes was alsosent off earlier in the match for handling on the line.
'Wehave a situation in England at the moment where we have the worstreferees God ever created,' said 70-year-old Crerand (above, right), who is employedby United's official television channel MUTV as a presenter.
'The Scholes sending- off decision, you couldn't argue with that.
'Butthe Rooney dismissal was a farce. United are losing, he wants to get onwith the game, he picks the ball up and hurls it about 40 yardsstraight to team-mate Jonny Evans.
'I know the referee's in that vicinity but it landed straight at Evans's feet. And the referee sent him off.
'Ithink referees want to do something to be noticed and get their photoin the papers. The sending-off of Rooney got him noticed. They talkabout respect in the game but referees have got to earn it.'
Off the hook: Wayne Rooney
has escaped further punishment despite his petulant display after being sent-off at Fulham
Rooneywill not face any further disciplinary action, the FA have confirmed after Dowd stated he was not sworn at by the player.
This means Rooney will be suspended for only one game, the home match against Aston Villa on April 5. The FA will write to Rooney, however, to issue him with a formal warningabout his conduct after he punched the corner flag while leaving thepitch.
An FA spokesman said: 'We have clarified with Phil Dowd that there was no abuse from the player after he was dismissed.
'Inrelation to the incident when he punched the corner flag, the refereedid not see that and we have written to Wayne Rooney
reminding him ofhis responsibilities.'
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