Alex Ferguson’s rants have become commonplace as he has aged, but the manager who many consider to be the greatest ever has been particularly vociferous this season. And the FA have allowed him to get away with too much, his standing in the game has allowed him to abuse referees this season in a way that no other manager would dare to do.
The paltry punishment handed out to Ferguson for his remarks about Alan Wiley earlier in the season was indicative of the leniency the FA have shown him over the year. And despite having a suspended touchline ban, he has not exactly held back in recent weeks. He raged over Darren Fletcher’s sending off against Birmingham and once again got away with it.
The Respect campaign that was brought in last season has fallen out of the limelight this season and no wonder. It has little chance of succeeding if the most respected and successful manager in the game shows no respect for referees. Any players who see what the United manager gets away with will see it as a green light to say whatever they want to referees. By not invoking the suspended sentence in recent weeks when the opportunity was there, the FA are shooting themselves in the foot.
The FA looks weaker and weaker every time they pander to Ferguson’s rants; they are essentially robbing themselves of power as when they fail to punish his transgressions, they cannot punish other for similar incidents. His rant that there wasn’t enough stoppage time in the FA Cup tie against Leeds was another occasion where he may have overstepped by claiming the referee had insulted the game.
It is not only the FA that is being harmed as these incidents continue; Ferguson’s own legacy is being harmed. He will always be remembered as a great manager of great historic importance, but the view of him is being constantly tarnished due to his belligerence towards match officials and journalists. While he undoubtedly deserves respect for his accomplishments, he is losing it with his constant digs at others; digs that become more frequent as his side struggle. The FA must act the next time he breaches their code of conduct as they are fast becoming farcical operation when it comes to discipline.