It could be argued that he is peerless as an influencer too. His successes and longevity at Britain’s top club have a tendency to overawe counterparts and, so it seems, officials as well.
His show of Boxing Day disdain on the pitch as the teams were emerging to contest the second-half, and later on the touchline with referee’s assistant, Jake Collin, and the fourth official, were actions designed to control, manipulate and influence. Whether they were effective or not is neither here nor there. Simply it should not have been allowed.
The assistant linesman deserves great credit for maintaining his composure, despite having an ear exposed to Ferguson’s rant. Mike Dean the referee however had an opportunity to nip things in the butt, and help his assistant by sending Ferguson to the stands, yet he chose not to. This leniency may have encouraged a similar incident late in the 2nd half involving the Newcastle bench (and the unfortunate assistant referee), contesting a decision not to provide a warranted, second yellow card to Antonio Valencia for a careless foul on Vurnon Anita.
If Mike Dean would have dealt with a manager other than Sir Alex Ferguson, differently, we will never know, but it is fair to speculate as to that would be the case.
We have now learned that the FA will take no action, presumably as the incident was not recorded in Mr Dean’s match report. Yet it seems that both Harry Redknapp and Roberto Mancini will be written to by the FA for comments they made after their respective matches regards refereeing decisions.
Arguably Ferguson’s misdemeanor was the greater, so it leads one to wonder if Manchester United’s manager has used the aura surrounding him, possibly subconsciously, to get away Scot-free (pun intended).
What was equally unpalatable in the next day’s press-conference was in referring to Newcastle United as a, “wee club in the north east.” Sir Alex will need to make sure he’s wearing his thickest skin on his next trip to Geordie-land.
It was a disrespectful comment designed, for sure, as a barb to Alan Pardew, who had commented on Ferguson’s pitch-side conduct when questioned during his own post-match interview, rather than a jibe to the legions of the Toon Army, for whom Ferguson will have much respect. As a keen student of the game’s traditions, it is a comment Sir Alex likely regrets making, for certainly he considers Newcastle United as one of England’s great clubs.
He will have less regret about letting Alan Pardew having it with both barrels. Ferguson rightly pointed out that the Newcastle bench were equally guilty, and was justified to point out the irony of Pardew’s criticism in light of the Newcastle manager’s two-game ban for shoving an official, in their first home game of this season.
Jonny Evans’ own goal which forged Newcastle ahead before the interval was what initially lit the blue touch paper, the United defender turning the ball into his own net with Papa Cisse clearly in an offside position from the initial shot-cum-cross.
It cannot be that a manager, no matter how powerful, intimidates officials and, had an FA sanction arisen from the touchline incident Ferguson could hardly have complained; the game does not need managers haranguing officials, especially those most vulnerable on the touchline.
By the same token it would be nice, and helpful, to have an explanation from someone, anyone, from the referee’s association, on the offside rule and why it was correctly applied in this instance, if indeed it was.