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