LONDON – Alex Ferguson doesn’t do embarrassment or apologies, so the Manchester United manager will not be bothered that he did himself, his club and football a public disservice with some ridiculous comments over the past week. He has an agenda and keeps to it.
On Boxing Day, he gave a sadly typical display of non-respect towards the match officials during the 4-3 win over Newcastle that should earn him a Football Association sanction, the main problem being that the F.A.’s non-punishment is to make him watch a game or three from the stands.
This has so little effect that Fergie and all managers believe the slap across the wrist from the F.A. is worthwhile and allows them to continue with their ref rants. Until the F.A. follows UEFA’s lead and gives managers a match-time ban — no contact with the players before or during games — there will be managerial anarchy. Fergie knows that putting pressure on referees pays dividends and the F.A. has stood back and let him and others continue.
Newcastle scored a goal that in law was correct. Papiss Cisse was standing in an offside position, no offense in itself, when Danny Simpson crossed from the right and the ball was diverted into his own goal by Jonny Evans. Believing Cisse, not Evans, had touched the ball assistant referee Jake Collin raised his flag, but referee Mike Dean saw the United defender got the crucial touch so he overruled his colleague.
Ferguson said Cisse was offside — true but irrelevant as he was not interfering with play or blocking the goalkeeper’s vision — and claimed that Cisse grabbed Evans’ arm. In fact it was the other way round. Ferguson, proving a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, berated Dean, Collin and the fourth official in a way that should embarrass the Scot. Should, but won’t.
Four days previously, Ferguson said Ashley Williams could have killed Robin van Persie when the Swansea defender slammed the ball against the head of the Manchester United striker.
Only Williams knows whether it was deliberate and he said it was an accident. I am prepared to take his word, not least because there was no obvious reason for him to hurt van Persie. There had been no “previous” in the game and at worst I think it was clumsy.
As clumsy as when Ferguson, in a rage, kicked a boot across the dressing room which hit David Beckham just above an eye, requiring stitches. Ferguson said van Persie could have been killed, but Williams could, with justification, have said Beckham might have been blinded.
Ferguson, like all managers, sees what he wants to see and remembers what he wants to remember.
OFFENSE wins games, defense wins titles is a generally accepted theory in team sports. If Manchester United is to regain its Premier League crown, it will have to buck the trend.
United has the No. 1 attack with 48 goals, but the 28 goals conceded means it has the 13th-rated defence. Only Fulham, Newcastle, Aston Villa, Southampton, Wigan, Queens Park Rangers and Reading have allowed more goals than United.
In the past 10 seasons the title has been won by the team with the best defense on seven occasions; in the other three seasons the champions had the No. 2 defence. United has shown a generosity in defense that is matched only by its powers of comeback.
Twenty four of United’s 46 points — 52 percent — this season have come in games in which it has trailed. United has come from behind eight times in the 14 matches it has won.
United is the best of a mediocre bunch — 2012 is not a vintage year for the Premier League. The big three’s sides of two or three years ago were significantly better than their current sides.
United will be expected to consolidate its lead when it entertains West Bromwich on Saturday and while it appears to be a one-horse race, only United, City and Chelsea were ever realistic title contenders.
BRAINLESS footballer No. 1: Jose Boswinga was fined £130,000 for refusing to be a substitute for Queens Park Rangers against Fulham. The defender knew he’d be fined two weeks wages for effectively going on strike, but he still chose this option.
Boswinga has what many believe is the best job in the world. He earns £65,000 a week, almost £10,000 a day, for playing football, and his £16.3 million move from FC Porto to Chelsea in 2008 and last summer’s switch to QPR on a free transfer ensured the Portuguese became a multimillionaire.
So £130,000 is almost loose change to Boswinga, proof that money can buy you many things, but not brains or class.
BRAINLESS footballer No. 2: After scoring against Southampton in the ninth minute, Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov took off his jersey to reveal a hand-written message — “Keep calm and pass me the ball.”
While players may disagree with the law, they must surely know it is a mandatory yellow card offense.
Berbatov should be fined a week’s wages for what was effectively a deliberate caution. As he was writing the message, did it not go through his mind “when I take my jersey off I’ll be cautioned?” Obviously.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.