Why do we keep letting Sir Alex and his manager pals get away with endless self-indulgent tantrums and spats
22:21 GMT, 29 December 2012
It was a depressing tantrum; a foot-stamping, arm-waving, finger-jabbing eruption of self-indulgence, with more than a hint of the bully about it.
Sir Alex Ferguson behaved quite outrageously at Old Trafford on Boxing Day. He may be incomparably accomplished but for a man on the eve of his 71st birthday he can sometimes seem distressingly immature.
Yet nobody was unduly surprised by the performance, since Ferguson has form in this department. Just as nobody was especially amazed by Mike Dean's decision not to report Sir Alex to the Football Association.
Up to your old tricks, Sir Alex All eyes were on Ferguson during Manchester United's 2-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday after his Boxing Day outburst (below), but while he shouted at assistant referee Andy Garrett at Old Trafford (left), he also showed his gentler side by sharing a joke with the official (right)
Of course, he should not have tolerated such a show of crass dissent during the United-Newcastle game, since it demeaned his own authority and diminished the status of officials at every level.
But clearly he felt he had little option. For Dean is merely a football referee, while Ferguson is a member of an altogether happier, wealthier, more prestigious profession. He is a football manager.
Once again, 2012 was the year of the manager, confirming a trend which has developed down the decades. the man in the dugout is now more famous, and considerably more powerful, than almost any of the young athletes in his care.
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But the manager is different. As the public face of his club, he is the man who pulls the strings and sets the tone. As such, he enjoys considerable influence and he can become tetchy when he feels his powers being mocked or challenged.
If Ferguson's outburst was wearily familiar, then his subsequent spat with Newcastle's Alan Pardew was still more predictable. Now Pardew is rarely regarded as one of football's intellectuals. Certainly, his short-term memory is as faulty as the rest of his trade.
He correctly suggested that Ferguson should have been sent to the stands but naturally he overlooked the opening match of the season, when he pushed over a linesman. 'It was comical,' Pardew chuckled at the time. 'He just happened to be right in front of me.'
Ferguson has reminded him of the incident, and his arrogant description of Newcastle as 'a wee club in the north-east' has ensured that the dreary squabble has a long way to run. Yet, for most of them, squabbling and self-protection is a way of life. At tImes, they make politicians appear almost altruistic.
Thus, Harry Redknapp takes over at QPR from the expensive disaster that was Mark Hughes and promptly damns the previous regime. 'I don't want to spend the owners' money, really,' says Redknapp. 'I've got to be honest with you. I don't want to see the owners have their pants taken down like they have in the past. a lot of agents have made an awful lot of money out of them.'
Now, it is true that Rangers spent an extraordinary 6.8million on agents in the year ending September 2012. It may also be true that some of those agents were more talented footballers than the players they represented. Yet nobody mentioned that in Redknapp's three-and-a-half years as Tottenham manager, the club spent the thick end of 25m on agents' fees. Hughes will surely rectify that omission and another feud will gain pace.
Power games: Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is another who loves a tiff where possible
Roberto Mancini is another manager with a healthy respect for self-protection. Sometimes this takes the form of a juvenile jibe at an official, like last week's 'maybe the referee ate too much for Christmas'. Sometimes it may be a theatrical clash with the opposition – Moyes, Ferguson, Wenger, Lambert and Martinez have all served as sparring partners.
Yet most managers seem to enjoy a tiff and we in the media are all too often at pains to publicise their differences. Consider the recent League Cup tie between Leeds and Chelsea. On this entire strife-torn, recession-ridden planet, could anything be less important than wondering if Neil Warnock will shake the hand of Rafa Benitez But wonder we did. and great was the rejoicing when peace broke out.
You see, these are people of consequence and as such we weigh their pronouncements – the nonsense along with the profound. We inflate their successes and vilify their shortcomings. We may occasionally marvel at a compensation system in which failure is rewarded as lavishly as success but we say nothing.
You see, they are the masters now. They set their own terms and make their own rules. And if the leader of their pack should indulge himself with the odd touchline tantrum, then he can anticipate no serious penalty. For he knows that football managers are the new aristocracy of professional sport. Such is the status quo. Expect no changes in 2013.
Time for a sit-down protest
The dying days of 2012 have produced a most unlikely hero. I give you Paul Weir, Sunderland's head of safety and security.
Most of our major football clubs have a serious problem with selfish spectators who insist on standing in areas designed for seats, thereby blocking the view and ruining the match for countless fans.
But Sunderland have done something about the problem. They have ejected 38 people, suspended season tickets and taped up the seats of persistent offenders.
Sit down! Sunderland are cracking down on supporters who persistently stand at matches
Mr Weir said: 'We have a duty of care to all our supporters, including elderly and disabled fans who have contacted us, very concerned that their enjoyment on a match day is being compromised because people around them stand throughout the game.'
Inevitably, some of the standing blockheads are mightily miffed by this action and one of the Sunderland message boards was awash with schemes for demonstrating their displeasure at Saturday's game.
But others opted for sanity. I cherished the brutal Wearside common sense of the man who wrote: 'Daft t***s will probably stage a sit-down protest'.
Past his bedtime: Phil 'The Power' Taylor
Power failure hits Phil
From time to time, usually by people who ought to know better, Phil 'The Power' Taylor is described as 'Britain's greatest-ever sportsman'. This apparently derives from the fact that he has won a version of the darts world title on 15 occasions, thus elevating himself high above the likes of Bannister, Coe, Matthews, Finney, Moore, Botham, Redgrave, Wiggins and others.
I recalled the absurdly recurring claim when I heard about Taylor's struggle to stay awake for the evening sessions of the latest world event. At 52, he complained, starting matches at 10 o'clock at night was far too tiring.
'The late nights are difficult,' confessed 'The Power'. 'I would love to be on at 8pm. That would be perfect for me. I can go back, put on my slippers on and go to bed early.'
He then posed the question: 'Has Roger Federer ever played at 11.30pm at night in a last-32 match' Well, I imagine he has because Federer is a superb athlete who excels in a cruelly demanding and utterly authentic sport.
Had he hankered after early nights and slippers, then he would have taken up a pot-bellied pub game. Britain's 'greatest-ever sportsman' could suggest one.
Pulis: A clarification
Last week I referred to a published report that the Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, had officially complained about the suspension of Marouane Fellaini for head-butting Ryan Shawcross. The report, widely circulated across the media, said Pulis believed the three-match ban was too lenient and that a Stoke player would have received something far more punitive.
Tony Pulis has assured me that the report was a complete invention and that he had made no such complaint. I am pleased to accept his assurance and thank him for clarifying the situation.