Premier League - Fergie joins Wembley turf critics

Eurosport - Fri, 05 Mar 12:14:00 2010

Alex Ferguson has added to the mounting criticism of the Wembley pitch by blaming the surface for injuring Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney.

2010 Carling Cup final groundsmen work on Wembley pitch at half-time - 0

The Manchester United manager's bid for a fourth-consecutive Premier League title has already taken a blow following the news that Owen will miss the rest of the season with a hamstring injury sustained during last Sunday's Carling Cup final win over Aston Villa.

Now Rooney faces a fight to be fit for Saturday's clash at Wolverhampton Wanderers after playing at the national stadium twice in the past week, replacing Owen 42 minutes into the Sunday's final and then playing almost all of England's friendly against Egypt in midweek.

"We have to assess Wayne because he played almost 90 minutes for England the other night at Wembley, which I was disappointed in," said Ferguson. "When you are playing on that pitch for almost an hour on Sunday and then nearly a full game on Wednesday it's far too much. Now he is a doubt for Wolves."

Tottenham's Jermain Defoe is also unlikely to feature in the FA Cup quarter-final at Fulham this weekend. The Spurs striker aggravated a hamstring problem he had been carrying when he played for the first half against the African champions.

Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp said: "He had it before the England game on Wednesday then felt it afterwards."

In the build-up to Wednesday's match, Aston Villa's James Milner was heavily critical of the Wembley turf, which has been re-laid eight times since the stadium opened in March 2007. The 757 million ground also regularly hosts rock concerts, NFL matches and other events aside from football matches.

Milner said at the time: "It's not (good enough). It is the home of England. For us, as a team, you want the best surface possible and, hopefully, it can improve because at the moment it is not quite there. There had been a lot of rain and, maybe, it was poorer on Sunday. But, to be honest, whenever I have been there before I've never thought: 'This is a great surface.'

"It was very difficult, actually. It was slippery and was cutting up. Not good. You work as hard as you can to get to a cup final at Wembley and it was probably one of the worst pitches you will play on all season. At a final you want to play in a great stadium which it is and on a great pitch, but I knew what to expect as I have been there before."

Matthew Upson was one of several players to complain about the pitch after the game. The West Ham defender had slipped over, allowing Egypt to score the opening goal. England recovered to win 3-1, but Upson joined Rooney, Frank Lampard, Robert Green and Leighton Baines in bemoaning the state of the playing surface.

"Was the Egypt goal down to the pitch? I'd like to think so. I had the usual boots on, long studs, and the pitch just went from underneath my feet.

"It is a bit disappointing. When I first walked on the pitch, it was quite firm, which I was pleased with. But it just gave way, and cut up a bit, once you put a bit of force down on it."

Tony Mabert / Eurosport

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