'Wee club' Newcastle in fuming Fergie's line of fire
An angry Alex Ferguson launched a withering personal attack on Alan Pardew yesterday and described Newcastle United as a "wee club in the north-east".
The Manchester United manager is furious over criticism of his confrontation with referee Mike Dean during the teams' match at Old Trafford on St Stephen's Day.
Dean described Ferguson's behaviour as "reasonable and rational" and chose not to report the incident to the FA, but Pardew said on Thursday that the United manager should have been punished, a view echoed by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger yesterday.
Pardew said: "I think Mike Dean might feel slightly disappointed he didn't do something about it. I think the pressure that was on him was tough for a referee to take.
"Sometimes when you reflect on a game you think you might have acted differently. You do that as a manager and I think he might have done that as a referee.
"But it's an emotional game and 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."
The Newcastle manager's comments provoked a full-bore response from Ferguson, who also banned television channel Sky Sports News from covering his press conference yesterday because it had broadcast footage of the Dean incident several times.
Ferguson insisted his actions towards Dean had not been "out of order", and said Pardew, who was given a two-match touchline ban for pushing assistant referee Peter Kirkup in August, was guilty of far worse in his behaviour to officials.
"The problem for me and Manchester United is that the profile of the club is huge," Ferguson said. "Alan Pardew has come out and criticised me. Alan Pardew is the worst at haranguing referees with his whole staff every game.
"He was at it for the whole game on Wednesday. He shoves the linesman and laughs about it and he has to cheek to criticise me. It is unbelievable. He forgets the help I gave him, by the way.
"The press have a good field day. They have addressed every possible angle, the only avenue they have not gone down is Barack Obama as he is too busy. It's unfortunate that I carry that, because I'm the manager of the biggest club in the world. I'm not like Newcastle, a wee club in the north-east. That is the facts of life. I was demonstrative but I was not out of order."
The latest dispute between Ferguson and Dean centred on the referee's decision to award an own goal by Jonny Evans, despite Newcastle's Papiss Cisse occupying an offside position.
"The interpretation from Mike Dean is that (Cisse) was not interfering, I think he was," Ferguson said. "I think that is reasonable. I thought Mike Dean handled it well. He is an experienced referee, mature.
"There was no ranting and raving from me. I was demonstrative but then I am always demonstrative, everyone knows that. I'm an emotional guy. That does not mean to say it was abusive of the referee.
"Some managers shove a linesman on the pitch and make a joke of it. I'm not making a joke of this. I think it should have been disallowed. I was not on the pitch for more than three or four yards. Then we came off together."
The fact that Ferguson has escaped punishment for his actions has enraged Manchester City after their manager, Roberto Mancini, was censured for making a joke about referee Kevin Friend.
The FA has written to City asking them to explain his comments following their 1-0 defeat at Sunderland that Friend had "eaten too much over Christmas".
Manchester City will argue that Mancini was trying to be funny in a press conference in a language that is not his own. He was not, unlike Ferguson, confronting a referee in the full glare of the pitch.
The Queen's Park Rangers manager, Harry Redknapp, has also been asked to explain his observation that the linesman at Loftus Road on St Stephen's Day "should have gone to Specsavers".
However, the FA takes a dim view of anyone attempting to criticise the physical fitness of a match official.
When Ferguson attacked Alan Wiley for being not fit enough to referee the 2-2 draw against Sunderland at Old Trafford in October 2009, he was fined and given a two-match touchline ban. Ferguson apologised.
Sky Sports News arrived at United's training base yesterday morning to be told they would not be allowed to film Ferguson's press conference. They continued through the day to show the footage of Ferguson remonstrating with Dean.
The United manager's second-most pressing concern yesterday was his team's poor recent defensive record, which he admitted he cannot find an explanation for.
"We have analysed it to every possible detail to try and get a constant thread that tells me how to do this. It just does not appear," Ferguson said.
"It is either don't attack at all, which is not going to be Manchester United, or let our supporters live through the agony of 4-3s.
"I said after the Reading game that it has to stop and it hasn't stopped. I say it again but it won't stop. This present team, it's just one of those seasons we just seem to be letting in silly goals.
"If we're scoring four goals at home there should be one against us or nothing. That is one way to help your goal difference. The concern for me about losing goals is that it is testing us to the very limit and it is making us play beyond the energy levels we need to." (© Daily Telegraph, London)