ALEX FERGUSON has accused Richard Scudamore of "jumping off a high-diving board without thinking," after dismissing calls from the Premier League chief executive for managers to show more respect towards referees.
Although Scudamore stopped short of directly highlighting Ferguson's recent £30,000 fine and five-match touchline ban for criticising referee Martin Atkinson, the timing of his comments would appear to have been influenced by the furore surrounding the Manchester United manager's latest brush with authority.
Scudamore pointed to "elements of unacceptable behaviour" and "vitriolic abuse" towards officials and also highlighted the "goading of referees" by players after insisting on an improved relationship between officials and managers and players.
But Ferguson, who serves the second match of his five-game punishment when United face West Ham at Upton Park today, has dismissed Scudamore's observations.
"Richard Scudamore hasn't got a lot to do has he?" Ferguson said. "He is trying to elevate the Premier League. Fine. That's good and that's his job.
"But I don't think managers disrespect referees. I got done for what I consider to be fair comment (about Atkinson), I got a five-match ban and that's fine. But that is not to say we don't respect referees.
"It's a difficult job and we all know that. I do think Richard is jumping off a high-diving board here without thinking about it."
Clarke Carlisle, the chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association, called for Scudamore to provide "clear guidelines" and said that instances of players accosting referees were diminishing.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger backed the drive towards greater respect, but claimed that referees must contribute as well.
"It's a good campaign, but we can be inspired by what happens in rugby for example," said Wenger. "Sometimes the referees get too close to the players as well. They have to keep the right distance with the players."
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said: "To ref is very difficult and you have to show respect to these persons. But I don't think it's a problem.
"If you think it is a problem in the Premier League, you should look at other games and other leagues. It's worse in Italy, 100pc."
While Ferguson will again be kept away from the officials at Upton Park today because of his touchline ban, the Scot's primary concern will be fielding a recognised defence.
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is doubtful after missing training, while Wes Brown, Rafael da Silva, Owen Hargreaves, John O'Shea and Jonny Evans are unavailable -- as is suspended midfielder Paul Scholes.
Rio Ferdinand stepped up to first-team training yesterday following a two-month calf injury, but is unlikely to figure for at least another week.
"I thought the two-week break would bring them (injured players) on and it has, but not enough for this game," said Ferguson. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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