10:59am Friday 8th March 2013
By Winning the Toss
Picture: Sire Alex Ferguson yesterday
So another Champions League week has come to pass, and with it came the usual excitement, talking points and of course, controversy.
The glamour tie in the latest round of matches was the meeting between two of the game’s biggest clubs, Manchester United and Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho commented that "the whole world will stop to watch," and it did, but unfortunately the sweet football on offer was tempered by the sour nature of the aftermath in the red hot wok of Old Trafford.
Picture: A wok yesterday
Nearly everybody seems to be talking about referee Cuneyt Cakir's decision to send off Portuguese winger Nani for a high-footed challenge - a decision which undoubtedly affected the game allowing more space for Xabi Alonso to spray passes around like bullets in a low-budget action film, probably starring Steven Seagal.
However, regardless of whether the ref may have made the wrong decision (to most observers he did, unless you are Roy "I dare you to look me in the eyes" Keane, in which case he definitely didn't), little focus has been on the arguably more disgraceful behaviour of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Ferguson's record as a manager is almost peerless, but in recent years he has become something of a sore loser.
His decision after Wednesday night's game to send poor old Mike Phelan out to wheel off some half-baked excuses about his no-show to the waiting press was laughable, but sadly not unexpected.
Phelan claimed that Sir Alex was "too distraught" to speak to the press. ‘Too distraught’? Now, forgive me if I'm wrong, but don't you usually hear that kind of language from lawyers talking about their clients in some sort of horrible, tragic missing child case?
It’s frankly ludicrous that anyone can be "too distraught" to speak after a game of football. But that wasn’t enough for Fergie. We were also told that no Manchester United players were permitted to speak to the media after the game. What is this, the North Korean Cup?
Picture: North Korea yesterday
Now don't get me wrong, this isn't an attack on Manchester United, but more a complaint about the aura of arrogance that has built up during Ferguson's long tenure at the club – remember this is the man who refused to speak to the BBC for the best part of a decade after a documentary questioned his son Jason’s business dealings.
In 2011 Sir Alex stormed out of the press conference after a journalist suggested his team were struggling in Europe, claiming "we're not struggling". Soon after United were knocked out of the Champions League by Basle.
Sure he may not have agreed with what was being said, but was there any need to to throw his sporran out of the pram? It's embarrassing. You would expect more humility from a man of his age and experience.
In fact, Ferguson’s a bit like an old bottle of wine that hasn't been stored correctly. It matures and grows in value over the years, and when you open it you expect to sample a fine vintage but to your dismay you find it’s corked and the product is bitter and vinegary.
But it wasn't just the Red Devil's manager that let them down in midweek, it was also their captain.
Rio Ferdinand's sarcastic applause to the referee after the final whistle was cringeworthy, especially the moment he realised he had made a bit of a prat of himself and went back to shake the official’s hand.
Picture: Rio Ferdinand yesterday
I was hoping the ref would thumb his nose at him, and then produce a red card. Sadly he did neither.
UEFA have said they won't take any further action against Ferdinand over this incident, which is probably a wise move after Nottinghamshire police revealed that one disgruntled United fan rang 999 to complain about the result. By banning Ferdinand, UEFA may have caused a life-threatening disruption to our emergency services, so thanks for that Monsieur Platini.
Football is often mentioned in a negative light these days and frequents the front pages as much as the back pages of our tabloids. One of the things we hear most about our game is that there are not enough role models and most of our stars are setting a bad example.
Well if Sir Alex's recent behaviour is anything to go by, I am inclined to agree.
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