The Football Association has renewed its attempts to challenge Sir Alex Ferguson's conduct with referees, lodging their third improper conduct charge in two seasons, eight months after the last one was dismissed on appeal.
It is a sign of Ferguson's enduring intensity – yesterday being the 22nd anniversary of the day he first walked into Old Trafford – that after watching his side batter Hull City all over Old Trafford on Saturday, that he should have launched into battle with the referee Mike Dean before the official had left the pitch.
Gary Neville had to place a restraining arm as Ferguson involved himself in a finger-jabbing session, enraged by Dean's decision to award Hull a penalty and failure – as he saw it – to issue Hull's Michael Turner with a second yellow card following his challenge on Michael Carrick. The penalty decision certainly looked an acceptable one, though Turner's challenge on Michael Carrick would have earned some players a second yellow. Ferguson's anger was shared by several of his players, none less than Wayne Rooney whose own extraordinary conduct in the last quarter of the match included refusing Hull skipper George Boateng's offer to hand the ball to goalkeeper Van der Sar, demanding a drop ball instead. Rooney then challenged Boateng in a way which might easily have earned him his marching orders and he had already been booked at that stage.
Sky Sports' interpretation of events was that Rooney was fortunate to remain on the pitch and this has seen them also incur Ferguson's wrath. Though it is understood that Ferguson had not, as of Tuesday, seen the comments made by Paul Merson, Sky were denied the customary interviews before and during last night's Champions League group match in Glasgow.
The broadcaster was said to be hopeful of a thaw before Ferguson discusses tomorrow's Arsenal match today. The BBC, already subject to a permanent boycott by Ferguson, decided not to feature the Rooney challenge on Match of the Day. Ferguson was clearly agitated about the closing stages of the Hull game. "The player's already been booked so the referee's failed in his duty there," he said aftewards of Turner. "It should have been a red card as he was right through." It remains to be seen how Ferguson responds to the charge – he has until 19 November to do so – but the FA has certainly had mixed results in its attempts to challenge his behaviour over the past year. At Fratton Park in March, Ferguson was furious when Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off but went further after the Portsmouth FA Cup tie in March, labelling Martin Atkinson "a disgrace". An improper conduct charge was laid but not proven, owing to technical flaws in the FA case relating to transcripts of Ferguson's comments which were not accurate. Carlos Queiroz, the then assistant manager, denied calling Atkinson "a robber", claiming he was misquoted. He also apologised for comments he made about Birmingham defender Martin Taylor. But he did question the referee's impartiality and also suggested poor officials should be replaced during games. "The referee is a disgrace," said Queiroz. "What we cannot accept are referees who watch only one side." The FA initially planned to appeal that verdict but it stood. But Ferguson, who also said in a pre-match press conference in March that "the haranguing of referees is ridiculous" and something his players had cut out did serve a two-match touchline ban and was fined £5,000 for a rant at Mark Clattenburg after a defeat at Bolton.