Manchester United might have inched closer to a 20th league title with last night's draw at West Ham United, but that didn't stop manger Sir Alex Ferguson raging at referee Lee Probert over the lack of protection given to goalkeeper David de Gea following a series of challenges by Andy Carroll.

The Spaniard, whose physicality has often been questioned, was put under constant pressure from the West Ham attack, particularly from Carroll, who was booked following two clashes with the United stopper.

And Ferguson, who saw his side come from behind twice at Upton Park, says United were not protected by referee Probert during the Hammers' onslaught.

David de Gea and Andy Carroll
De Gea and Carroll came together on numerous occasions at Upton Park.

"We know how they play," said Ferguson. "The ball is in the air most of the time and you have to defend those things. They were very aggressive as you've seen tonight.

"There's no doubt it's a red card [for Carroll's challenge on De Gea]. It's obvious. The referee saw it differently. We're looking for players to be protected and we didn't get that.

"David has been improving all the time and is developing into a fantastic keeper. It's just a matter of experience in the English game - he's got stronger. His training performances are really good and he's shown that again tonight. As we've been saying for quite a while, he's developing into a first-class goalkeeper.

"Vidic has a badly bruised jaw [area] but I don't know what happened in that situation. He's certainly got a nice bruise on his cheekbone.

"It was like the Alamo at times but we stood up to it and that's the important thing. Never at any time did we show a lack of courage, so they did really well and I'm pleased with them."

Carroll's knock-down allowed Ricardo Vaz Te to give the hosts the lead, but Antonio Valencia's tap in levelled the scores before the break.

Mohamed Diame continued his knack of scoring against the Premier League big hitters with a stunning strike but Robin van Persie continued his resurgence with a fortunate equaliser, after Shinji Kagawa's effort had struck both posts.

Replays later suggested van Persie was in an offside position when he latched onto the rebound, and while the point is a filip for West Ham's Premier League survival, manager Sam Allardyce was left disappointed that the linesman's decision cost his side a memorable victory.

"It was just an outstanding performance from all the players that took part, I can't praise them enough," Allardyce said. "We've played like this most of the season.

"The outstanding goals that we scored, especially the second goal, should have brought us an outstanding victory against the leaders Manchester United. And sadly, the linesman's decision has denied us a famous victory.

"Van Persie's goal was offside. He was in an offside position when the ball was struck, it hit the post, it came to him and he's put it in the net. It's a famous victory that has slipped away from us. But it remains a fantastic point and a fantastic performance."