On December 26th, Manchester United beat Newcastle in a 4-3 thriller at Old Trafford. United scored the winner in injury time, and their manager: Alex Ferguson was suitably happy. However, the event that most people remember from the game was the actions of Ferguson just before the start of the second half.
In the first half, Newcastle had been awarded a controversial goal when United defender Jonny Evans turned the ball into his own net. Newcastle striker Papiss Cisse was in an offside position, but the referee judged Cisse not to be ‘interfering with play’. Initially the referees assistant ruled the goal out, but after some conferring, the referee: Mike Dean decided to award the goal. Whether you think he got it right or not, depends on your interpretation of ‘interfering with play’. Dean had a split second to make the decision and even if you disagree with it, you can see why he made the call.
As United and the the referees came out for the second half, Ferguson could be seen haranguing Dean, before moving on to the assistant referee Jake Collin and then the 4th official. He spent quite a bit of time shouting at each of them and using very animated hand gestures. In his match report, Dean did not mention these exchanges as apparently they were ‘rational and reasonable. Even if they were, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew ruefully noted “apparently they had a cordial discussion. I’ve had a few of those myself and sometimes I’ve ended up in the stands as a result of that cordial discussion”.
If we accept the shaky premise that Ferguson was respectful polite towards the officials while he was shouting at them, we still have to ask about the sort of example this sets to football fans around the world. Football officials get very little thanks and no respect for what they do. United are possibly the most popular team in the world – so it can’t do much good for the game when their legendary manager is allowed to berate match officials in such a free way. Recently Man City manager Roberto Mancini and QPR manager Harry Redknapp have had charges brought against them for disrespectful comments about referees, but it seems Ferguson is immune from such charges
Mark Cruise is a soccer writer for Rantsports. Follow him on Twitter: @chiefhairyman