If, as they say, a minute is a long time in soccer, then 14 days must be a lifetime. So would it appear to be in the world of Sir Alex Ferguson, where time and timekeeping seem to be the primary conduits of his mood.
The Manchester United manager's ire was fully cranked on Saturday when he launched into a bitter rant against referee Alan Wiley. Ferguson claimed that Wiley was lacking in sufficient fitness to manage an English Premier League game and that he had conspired to take extra time to yellow card a player in order to allow himself to "rest."
As a result, according to Ferguson's garbled logic, his United players were denied additional time to attempt a winning goal and had to settle for a disappointing 2-2 home draw against Sunderland.
Sniping at match officials is common practice in soccer around the world, yet Ferguson's comments about Wiley went way overboard.
"I was disappointed with the referee, I must say," Ferguson said. "He just wasn't fit enough for a game of that stature. The fitness of both sets of players, the pace of the game, demanded a referee who was fit. He's not fit. I don't think he's fit.
"We've got some good referees in our country who are fit. But he wasn't fit. He didn't add any time on for the goal we scored. He played four minutes and two seconds' injury time. There should have been another 30 seconds. But he was actually walking up the pitch after the final goal, needing a rest.
"He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was taking a rest. I think he's taking a rest, writing down the names on his card and taking 30 seconds for a booking; it's ridiculous."
Ferguson's criticism could be read as a direct accusation of professional incompetence against Riley, as referees are obliged to maintain certain fitness standards that are ratified by a governing body for match officials. Riley passed the required tests prior to the start of this season.
If Ferguson genuinely felt Riley's levels were not up to EPL standard, he should have taken his complaint to the refereeing committee. By simply spouting off to the media, he comes across as merely attempting to deflect blame for a substandard performance from his team.
And his comments are made to look even more crass when we look back just a fortnight to United's derby victory over Manchester City.
On Sept. 20, Ferguson was full of the joys of life celebrating Michael Owen's winning goal in the sixth minute of injury time that clinched a controversial 4-3 victory. After Owen's strike sparked a flurry of protest from City and provided one of the most memorable derby finishes in history, Ferguson could be seen laughing and joking with the match's fourth official.
A man named Alan Wiley.
Fourteen days … a lifetime in soccer.
Ferguson exacts stringent standards from his players, the officials and those around him. Similar controls on his own reactionary comments would be very welcome.
1. Get him an Advil
Bob Bradley. All of a sudden, World Cup qualifying is upon us again and Bradley must prepare for a potentially treacherous trip to Honduras on Saturday. The tough thing for Bradley to decide is whether to go with an aggressive tactical approach or to sit back and blunt the Hondurans' attacking threats. Qualification for the World Cup could hinge on his call.
2. Get him a beer
Sevilla striker Renato's headed winner gave his team its seventh straight victory – and smashed Real Madrid's perfect start to the season. Without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, Madrid was completely outplayed and was flattered by the 2-1 scoreline. Sevilla, with its rapid-fire style, is capable of big things this season.
3. Get him some earplugs
Jose Mourinho. The Inter Milan boss last week was on the receiving end of a public blast from Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara, who had taken offense at Mourinho's claims that Juve is favored by the fixtures committee, the referees and even the Italian media. Ferrara systematically broke down every argument by Mourinho, who invariably gets the better of verbal mind games played out through the media. This time, though, he was put firmly in his place by Ferrara's wit and humor.
4. Keep an eye on …
Iker Muniain. Athletic Bilbao's 16-year-old prodigy is a star of the future and is already making waves as a winger or second striker. Tagged as the "Spanish Messi," Muniain can be seen doing his thing for Bilbao in La Liga and the Europa League.
5. Catch a flight to …
San Pedro Sula. Political unrest is rife in Honduras, but that's no reason to skip Saturday's World Cup qualifier, at which the USA can book a place in next year's tournament with a win. However, Bradley's men face a tough task against the impressive hosts, who are still in contention for a qualification place of their own.
6. Useless and completely made up statistic of the week
100 – The number of decibels Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp's voice reached when he reacted furiously to claims he is being investigated by tax officials. "I've paid 10 million pounds [$16.5 million] in tax over the past 10 years," Redknapp screeched.
7. Sad farewell
Brice Taton, a 28-year-old French soccer fan, died last week from injuries suffered at the hands of Serbian soccer hooligans. Taton was beaten before Toulouse's Europa League clash with Partizan Belgrade on Sept. 17.
8. Get ready to say hello to …
Ibrahim Ba. Rather farfetched rumors in Africa have suggested that the former French national team midfielder could be set to move to Major League Soccer with an unnamed club. Ba is now 35 and played just one professional match in the last three years, so we will believe it when we see it.
9. Get ready to say goodbye to …
David Beckham. Again? Yes, October is upon us once more, that happy time of year when the England midfielder's thoughts turn to foreign pastures. As expected, the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder admitted over the weekend that he is close to returning to AC Milan in January, in what is likely to be a loan switch similar to the one he made in the early part of 2009.
10. Get excited about …
Nicolas Anelka. The man often nicknamed "Le Sulk" was outstanding in Chelsea's 2-0 victory over Liverpool and looked to be at his menacing best. If the French striker can keep his game (and more importantly his attitude) on track, the Stamford Bridge side could be on target for both domestic and European silverware.
11. Why it's good to be a soccer player
We've never had her in this category before and the English papers are claiming that she is sprouting gray hairs. So, before it's too late, take a look at the Queen of the WAGS, Posh Spice herself – Victoria Beckham.
- Sir Alex Ferguson
- Alan Wiley
- Manchester United