Guilty as charged. Sir Alex Ferguson held his hands up yesterday and accepted a charge of improper conduct following his tirade against Alan Wiley, the Staffordshire referee, to whom he has already apologised.
The Manchester United manager's admission of culpability is unlikely to mark a volte-face in his attitude towards those referees who fail to meet his exacting standards. Realistically, Ferguson had no other option, having made his comments on camera.
Now, by pleading guilty, he doubtless hopes to persuade the Football Association to view his outburst with leniency, at the same time defusing the hostility of the refereeing fraternity and sections of the media.
Ferguson, who criticised the 49-year-old Wiley's fitness after United's 2-2 draw with Sunderland at Old Trafford on 3 October, has requested a personal hearing. The date for that has yet to be decided by the FA. The 67-year-old Scot faced demands for him to be given a lengthy touchline ban by Prospect, the union that represents match officials.
After United averted defeat with a late equaliser, Ferguson accused Wiley of "walking up the pitch for the second goal needing a rest". He added: "He wasn't fit enough for a game of that standard. The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He was not fit.
"It is an indictment of our game. You see referees abroad who are as fit as butcher's dogs. We have some who are fit. He wasn't. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous."
An apology – "for any personal embarrassment that my remarks may have caused, and to the FA for going public with my views" – did not produce the closure Ferguson hoped for. He now faces the possibility of a fine or a touchline ban.Reuse content