Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson claims 'cheats' are killing the game

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of champions Manchester United, has warned that the growing tactic of players feigning injury so they can disrupt an opposition attack is 'killing the game'.

Ferguson, whose team start their bid for a fourth consecutive Premier League title at home to Birmingham City, is furious that referees are being put under pressure by what he regards as cheating.

And he has ordered his own players not to kick the ball out of play when an opponent appears to be injured because the game's etiquette is being abused.

Ferguson's outburst follows last week's Community Shield game against Chelsea, when United felt they were 'conned' by Michael Ballack. Referee Chris Foy stopped a United attack to allow Ballack treatment, but did not do so when Patrice Evra was elbowed by the German and Chelsea went on to score.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson does not blame the officials, claiming they are being placed in a situation where they cannot tell if a player is genuinely hurt.

'Players who cheat are killing the game, not the referees,' said Ferguson. 'Something has got to be done about it. 'The game is meant to be stopped or the ball kicked out if there is a head injury, but the whole thing is overcooked now.

'Referees have a problem in deciding how much they can tolerate when a player goes down. It's a grey area.'

Ferguson says the only solution is to give complete control to the referee, rather than rely on players deciding whether or not to kick the ball out of play.

'We have to give the responsibility to the referee,' said Ferguson. 'They can then decide whether to stop the game or not. That would do the game a huge favour.' But he admitted that his own players may ignore his instructions.

'I have told the players not to kick the ball out and to let the referees decide. But they don't always listen,' he said. 'During a match, they think they will get stick off the opposing players and fans and so they kick it out.'

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