'Grumpy Scot' Ferguson won't go quietly from United… and he's proving to be as hungry as ever at the age of 71
22:31 GMT, 30 December 2012
Steve Clarke called him 'a typical grumpy Scot'. One half of Ant and Dec accused him of losing the plot. Others will be less kind. As he turns 71 on Monday, Sir Alex Ferguson couldn't care less.
Manchester United are top of the Barclays Premier League and halfway towards reclaiming the title. They head for Wigan on Monday seven points clear of Manchester City and with their manager in the rudest of health.
Referee Mike Dean and his assistants discovered that to their cost on Boxing Day. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew complained and Ferguson responded by not only belittling Pardew but the whole of Tyneside just for the hell of it.
Rant: Sir Alex Ferguson labelled Newcastle a 'wee club' after blasting officials at Old Trafford
Fergie is at that age when you no longer have to care. Anyone who thought he would let the furore over his 'wee club in the North East' comment get in the way of securing another win for his team was fooling themselves.
Granted, the United boss was conspicuous by his absence on the touchline for 70 minutes of Saturday's 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion.
Rarely had he played such a minor role at his Theatre of Dreams, preferring to let assistant Mike Phelan venture occasionally into the technical area. But when United needed him, when the flow of the game changed and West Brom began to press for an equaliser, Ferguson couldn't help himself.
He stepped forth into the wind and rain to rally his players and turn up the heat on referee Jon Moss and his assistants.
At one point, as he berated Andy Garratt for awarding a throw-in against his team, the linesman skipped sideways down the touchline towards him and patted Ferguson playfully on the back without taking his eyes off the game.
The manager's scowl immediately dissolved into a smile. It was a wonderful moment. For all that Ferguson undoubtedly got wrong with his behaviour on Boxing Day, it was a reminder that good man-management can defuse the most heated situation.
Others are less prepared to tolerate Fergie's outbursts. TV celebrity and Newcastle fan Declan Donnelly took to Twitter to condemn what happened last week.
Stern: Ferguson stands in front of fourth official Phil Dowd (right) and shows his gentler side (left)
Passion: Ferguson, who turns 71 on Monday, is as hungry for success as he ever has been
Escaped: Ferguson wasn't punished by the FA for ranting at the linesman and referee
'Has anyone seen his plot' asked Dec. 'He seems to have lost it. Majorly. Lost huge respect for him, both for his actions during and words after the #nufc game…the beginning of the end methinks.'
West Brom boss Clarke has been there from the start. Three months after Ferguson came down from Scotland to take over at Old Trafford in November 1986, Clarke left St Mirren for Chelsea.
The 49-year-old has faced his fellow Scot as a player and coach at Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham and Liverpool on countless occasions since.
'He's a typical grumpy Scot,' said Clarke. 'He likes to go chasing. He hasn't lost his hunger or his desire. I worked with Sir Bobby Robson at a similar age. He was maybe not quite as aggressive but he was the same. He had that determination and will to win. It's great to see.
'I don't know if I'd last until 71. I think it would be great to think there could be someone like that in the future, someone who has that longevity, but the way the game has gone, it's more short-term. 'It will be really difficult, if not impossible, to match his achievements,' Clarke added.
Typical: West Brom manager Steve Clarke described his counterpart as a 'grumpy Scot'
Ferguson will not dwell on Saturday's win or his 71st birthday any more than he did the events of last week. It's just not in his nature.
The next game is all that matters and Ferguson and his players do not need reminding that, on New Year's Eve last year, United lost at home to bottom-of-the-table Blackburn Rovers, or that another shock defeat at Tuesday's opponents Wigan in April triggered their collapse in the title race.
'We have to use the bad experiences we had last year,' said defender Patrice Evra ahead of their return to the DW Stadium.
'We lost at this time against Blackburn and I remember when we lost 1-0 at Wigan, we showed nothing. It was a really bad performance.
'This year, there will be no excuse. We will just go there, play like Manchester United and make sure we get the three points because it's really important we do that.'
Cruising: United eased past West Brom to stay seven points ahead of Manchester City