Sir Alex Ferguson launched a furious attack on referee Martin Atkinson after Manchester United’s title charge was dented by a controversial 2-1 defeat against Chelsea.

Ferguson’s table-toppers suffered just their second league loss this season when goals from David Luiz and Frank Lampard helped Chelsea erase Wayne Rooney’s first half strike at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Lampard’s penalty winner was especially frustrating for Ferguson, who felt Atkinson was wrong to rule that Chris Smalling’s challenge on Yuri Zhirkov was worthy of a spot-kick.

Atkinson also angered Ferguson by failing to send off Luiz for a series of cynical fouls and then dismissing United defender Nemanja Vidic for a second booking in stoppage time.

Inevitably Ferguson was quick to let rip at the official with a typically fiesty post-match tirade.

“You want a fair ref. I don’t know how he got this game. I must say, when I saw who it was, I did fear that,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“We defended badly for the first goal, That was a bad one to lose but the penalty kick was so soft, deary me.

“It’s three years in a row that decisions have changed the game here. It was incredible.

“Luiz had done (Javier) Hernandez off the ball and nothing was done. Then he does Rooney, clear as day.

“You are talking about what changed the game in the second half, these are decisions that change the game and he is going to be refereeing every week!

“I’m proud of my players. They endured a lot of bad decisions against them and they have done their best.”

Ferguson’s scathing comments could land him in hot water with the Football Association, but the Scot is unlikely to worry too much about that.