5 October 2009 ~ As a manager, what do you do when your team has performed poorly and been lucky to snatch a draw at home against opponents you had been expected to beat comfortably? Privately you might wonder whether at least one of your veteran stars is getting past it and whether the goalkeeper of whom a lot of expected will ever eradicate the tendency to make at least one costly blunder per game.

Publicly you know that you need to cause a distraction, to generate another talking point so that the post-match analysis won't focus on the stuff that may be troubling you. So you do what Sir Alex Ferguson did on Saturday and cast aspersions on the referee. The target of Sir Alex's ire received a big hug from him only a couple of weeks again when he was the fourth official at the Manchester derby, so there's no real enmity to it. But it's obnoxious all the same.

Unlike players and managers, referees are rarely the subject of abusive chants. But Alan Wiley can expect to get some in his next match having been accused of being "not fit enough" by Sir Alex after Man Utd's 2-2 draw with Sunderland. As is traditional Sir Alex also complained about the official's timekeeping, specifically the fact that he failed to add time on after United scored their injury-time equaliser.

But it is the implication that Wiley is not capable of doing his job that should lead to the United manager being charged with misconduct by the FA. If Ferguson escapes censure, the FA might as well discard their new policy, introduced in August, that require managers to refrain from undermining officials in pre or post-match comments.

The charge that Wiley is not fit enough can be refuted with statistics. Referees have their physical condition assessed in fortnightly meeting through the season and are required to be able to run in 40 metres in six seconds. Indeed Alan Wiley might have put up such a burst of speed on Saturday to show a second yellow to Phil Bardsley when the Sunderland player ignored his request to walk over to him to receive a booking.

Had Sunderland had two players sent off – Kieran Richardson was dismissed for time-wasting – and gone on to lose, you can be sure that Sir Alex would have expressed his approval of the official's firm stance. Indeed, he might even suggest that it is only other referees' failure to clamp down on foul play by United's opponents that is preventing his team from holding a lead at the top of the table. There's always something. Matt Hobson

Comments (4)
Comment by MarcB1972 2009-10-06 07:41:16

Fergie's just a miserable old cunt, always will be. Nowt will happen and it'll all blow over as per usual

Comment by ian.64 2009-10-06 08:24:23

In the scheme of things, Fergie's usual petulance is a drop in a turbulent ocean, but it helps to make the heart a little heavier by having old men, even with knighthoods, act like brattish ankle-biters who can't get their own way, their childishness breath-taking. Is it a law that the closer to the top of the Premiership tree you get, the more you have to act like an addled four-year-old who chucks his toys across the room? Wenger sees only what he needs to see and virtually ignores any misdemeanours perpetrated by his own side. Benitez sits in front of a full press conference room and reads off a litany of 'facts' against Manchester United. Ferguson puts in regular stints of reason-challenging spitefulness to keep hack columnists wistfully chirping on about 'mind games'. Even Mourihno sometimes tossed in a charmless verbal hand-grenade with all the elegance of a bloke taking a crap on a restaurant table.

Only Ancelotti so far has kept his counsel, or, if not, elected to keep any infammatory remarks to a minimum. He's slightly dull, which is fine by me. Dull stops him from acting like the rest.

There are those who say that, eventually, David Moyes will go a stage further and manage a Big Four club. So, remember that press conference where he grinned smugly and responded to a journo's mundane questions with this silent, infantile smirk on his face, refusing to say a word? That wasn't just immaturity, that was preparing for success. All that was needed was a dummy and a sponsorship from Pampers.

Comment by Tony C 2009-10-06 22:03:38

Nice post, Ian.

Link here to a piece about Prozone match data which officially calls bullshit on Ferguson's claims. Not that you need it. And, as suggested above, I would be amazed if the F.A. gave him more than the most cursory smack on the wrist.


Comment by Lincoln 2009-10-08 10:03:20

I think most footy fans tend to ignore what top managers say, however the popular media like to use it as a starting point for a debate. It usually ends with the conclusion that the manager is wrong so no harm is really done. The irony of Fergie's comment is that people have said it is to deflect attention away from his side's poor performance. Yet every article I have read has this bit tacked on and if anything has made more of it than if it had been just left as a simple admission that he experimented with a weaker side and it didn't work.

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