Sir Alex Ferguson was pitched back into a state of open conflict with the Football Association, after he was charged for comments made about an assistant referee at Tottenham Hotspur on 20 January.
The Manchester United manager will be furious that he has been charged over his discussion of Simon Beck after the 1-1 draw at White Hart Lane, in which Spurs scored their equaliser in stoppage time. Ferguson later claimed his club had “history” with Beck, following the official’s failure to rule out a Didier Drogba goal for Chelsea on the grounds of offside in 2010. The Scot has already stated that the governing body has been “panicked” into looking at his comments and that he is being victimised because United are a “high-profile club”.
Ferguson is unlikely to let his charge – under Rule E3, for implying a match official is biased – pass without further comment. He will be further irritated that he is being summoned when Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has escaped a fine or ban for suggesting the official Kevin Friend ate too much at Christmas and that QPR’s Harry Redknapp was not censured for saying that Chris Foy “should have gone to Specsavers or somewhere” following QPR’s Boxing Day defeat at West Bromwich Albion. But the FA believes that by bringing up a previous incident, Ferguson has questioned Beck's integrity.
Speaking after the Tottenham game, Ferguson expressed his anger that what he regarded as a "clear" penalty to United (when Steven Caulker challenged Wayne Rooney on Beck's side of the field) had not been given. His subsequent reference to United's "history" with Beck – dating back to 2010, when the official did not chalk off that Drogba goal as offside – prompted him to claim: "There was no way we were going to get a decision from [Beck]."
Ferguson is likely to escape with a fine rather a ban, as this is his first official brush with the FA this season.
In March 2011, he was handed a five-game touchline ban and fined £30,000 when found guilty of questioning the integrity of a referee, Martin Atkinson, after another game against Chelsea. Earlier this season, Ferguson escaped punishment for a high-profile confrontation with officials, including the referee Mike Dean, during a controversy-filled match against Newcastle United.
Last Friday, Ferguson was asked if his side was being victimised. "That is what I have put in my letter exactly. But you never know [with] the FA," he said. "We are high-profile and the profile of me is such that the FA naturally panic as soon as the press criticise them.
"I think that is what you will find. That is why they have sent me a letter. Whether I think it is unfair or not doesn't matter to them really at this point. I just think it is more about me than what I have said."
Ferguson has until 4pm on Friday to respond to the charge.
Odds Man United 2-9 Draw 6-1 So'ton 14-1
Kick-off 8pm (Highlights BBC 1, 10.35pm)
Referee L Mason (Lancashire)