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Saturday, May 19, 2007

PREMIER REPORT

Mourinho's criticism of Ronaldo for diving is laughable


LONDON — If the Wembley gods are looking down on the first F.A. Cup final back at the rebuilt national stadium, they will decree that Manchester United takes an early lead against Chelsea.

Christopher Davies

That way there is every chance we'll see a match worthy of the occasion.

Should the Blues score first they will no doubt adopt their what-we-have-we-hold attitude and be confident of defending their advantage.

The problem for neutrals is, nobody does it better than Jose Mourinho's superbly coached and organized team.

Whereas United is more pace and panache, Chelsea is power and pragmatism.

If the Blues have to open up and chase the game, the 2007 final could be a classic, but if Chelsea gains the upper hand United will find itself, battling against a team which has kept a clean sheet in 12 of its last 17 games.

Unsurprisingly, Mourinho has been in the headlines during the buildup to the final but for the most bizarre reasons concerning a misunderstanding over documents required for veterinary regulations.

Mourinho is believed to have refused to allow the police to take his Yorkshire Terrier away.

Scotland Yard, which stressed that the operation was led by the Animal Health and Welfare Service, confirmed the dog was to be seized under the Animal Health Act of 1981 and Rabies Order Act of 1974.

"A 44-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of obstructing police and was taken to a west London police station," said a police spokesperson. "He subsequently received a caution for obstructing police."

Mourinho refused to elaborate on the matter but he was happy to speak about his pet subject — Cristiano Ronaldo and the alleged diving of his fellow countryman.

There was no apparent awareness of hypocrisy when Mourinho warned the United winger about his so-called antics despite the fact Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole rarely need much encouragement to hit the deck.

"Ronaldo is a big player," said Mourinho. "But if he wants to be a bigger one he must be fair with opponents. The final should be played with happiness. I'll be disappointed if some players are diving and trying to get the opposition red cards."

Remarkably, Drogba is NOT a diver — and that's official.

Drogba has a reputation for diving, but the Chelsea striker has never been cautioned for simulation in domestic football since joining the club from Marseille in 2004.

However, Ronaldo has collected three yellow cards for diving following his transfer to United from Sporting Lisbon in 2003.

Cole has collected just two cautions for diving over the past five years — only one with the Blues, against Sunderland in Sept. 2000.

On the other hand, Ronaldo has a hat trick of bookings for diving — Leeds (Oct. 2003), Newcastle and Everton (both April 2005).

In the Footballer of the Year's defense, Ronaldo can claim that it is more than two years since he was shown the yellow card for simulation despite regular accusations of diving from opponents.

But Drogba has yet to be punished for his alleged inability to stay on his feet when tackled in over 100 games for Chelsea.

Such are the Blues' injury problems that Mourinho joked he may have to play third-choice goalkeeper Hilario in attack, but Drogba could be partnered with rookie Ben Sahar.

Chelsea is without Michael Ballack, Ricardo Carvalho and Andriy Shevchenko, while there are also doubts over Ashley Cole, Jon Obi-Mikel and Robben.

The F.A. Cup remains the only domestic trophy the Blues have not won under owner Roman Abramovich and Mourinho. The Blues go into the final in the wake of their longest winless run in the Mourinho era of five matches.

Chelsea ended the Premiership season with five draws, interspersed by the loss on penalties to Liverpool in the Champions League semifinal, second leg.

Meanwhile, United is making a record 18th appearance in the F.A. Cup final and has its sights on lifting the trophy for a 12th time, thus increasing the outright record it already holds.

Sir Alex Ferguson has won 18 major trophies as United manager and 27 titles in total in his managerial career in Scottish and English football — a post-war record.

He may be 65, but the fire still burns inside the Scot as he leads United in a final that one can say with confidence will not be without incident or controversy.

CARLO ANCELOTTI, the AC Milan coach, has done Rafa Benitez's pre-Champions League final team talk for him.

Liverpool needs little motivation for the game in Athens next Wednesday, but Benitez will just have to pin his counterpart's quotes about his team in the dressing room to ensure an extra determination to his players.

Ancelotti claimed Liverpool, which beat Milan on penalties in the 2005 final, is the worst technically gifted of the three English sides to reach the semifinals — the others were Chelsea and Manchester United.

Milan midfielder Genarro Gattuso has already taunted the Reds by saying they are not as good as United, which the Italian club beat in the semifinals.

Ancelotti has added fuel to the Champions League final's fire with his comments.

He delivered a less than subtle dig at Benitez and a policy he sees as decreasing the number of English players in the team.

"Milan is a strong Italian team and there is a strong Italian culture running through the team," said Ancelotti.

"Liverpool does not have the DNA of an English side. It is more of a Mediterranean team because of the (Spanish) coach.

"Technically, Liverpool is the worst team of the three English sides who reached the semifinals. Out of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United, I would have preferred United in the final.

"You could see from the two legs of our semifinal with them that they play and let you play. I don't think it will be the same with Liverpool."



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