There were many games over my career for Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson would get out of his seat and come into the technical area to have his say if he believed that an intervention needed to be made, or a point expressed to a referee. People like to think it happened all the time but, believe me, in 19 years playing for him you recognised that he knew how to pick his moment.
Watching Chelsea against Liverpool on Tuesday night, my feeling was not so much that Jose Mourinho was looking for the opportune moments to appeal against a decision or make his presence felt. Rather, for most of that 90 minutes – and the 30 minutes of extra time that followed – Mourinho seemed to be under the impression that it was him who was refereeing the game.
He appealed for cards, yellow and red. He threw his arms about in frustration at everything that did not go his way. He kept up a constant stream of communication with the fourth official, Phil Dowd, to the extent that he had his back to the action, and was busy telling Dowd what was what when Branislav Ivanovic scored the only goal of the game.
At times it seemed like everyone could save themselves a lot of trouble by fitting Mourinho with one of those headsets worn by the four officials, selecting the correct frequency on his radio and allowing him to join in the conversation.
When the two teams came back out at half-time, Mourinho seemed to have called a meeting of the referee, Michael Oliver, and his officials, such was his eagerness to give them his views on the events of the first half.
It is my view that Mourinho should stop doing it. His mithering of Dowd reached an extent when it would have been better all round just to put the fourth official in the stand, where he would get some peace to get on with his job of being the fourth pair of eyes among the officials. I have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official as some kind of alternative to the referee out there on the pitch. After all, what can he do?
Had that semi-final been against a United team managed by Ferguson, you can be sure that my old boss would have been across the technical area. He would have spotted what was going on a mile off, the blatant attempts to influence every single decision of a young referee, and put a stop to it straightaway.
Brendan Rodgers decided to ignore the nonsense going on in the opposite dugout. At least the Liverpool manager looked like the more dignified of the two.
The funny thing is, the more Mourinho does it, the more referees will be inclined to ignore him. If you spend an entire game jabbering away at an official you will very soon acquire a reputation as an annoyance best ignored. The whole process is counter-productive.
As for Diego Costa, I see it differently to the rest. I thought his actions were at the lower end of the scale of dangerous and that he was under extreme provocation from Martin Skrtel, who has wound him up before this season. My view of it was that Costa gets kicked a lot and actually his patience is to be admired in many, if not all, situations.
Mourinho will know that his team, so impressive at the start of the season, are starting to creak a little in defence. He changed it for this game by bringing in Kurt Zouma to give himself more pace in the centre of defence. The Mourinho teams I played against were built on a very solid defensive base but they have conceded five to Spurs and four to Bradford this month.
At Old Trafford we first encountered Mourinho in 2004 when his Porto team eliminated us on their way to winning the Champions League that year. With the benefit of a goal of mine being wrongly disallowed on the night, they went all the way and you saw then that this was a manager capable of improving the performance of the players he coached.
No one doubts that Mourinho has a fine record as a coach, with two Champions League titles and the possibility of winning a third Premier League with Chelsea this season.
The refereeing of matches he can safely leave to someone else.
Ronaldo always got plenty of stick when he was in England
I was in the Manchester United team the night that Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for going head-to-head with Richard Hughes in a game against Portsmouth at Fratton Park in 2007.
Like a lot of very good players, Cristiano had to take a lot of stick from opponents and for the most part he took it well and got on with the game. But, as with all of us, there is a breaking point and it seemed like he reached it again with his sending-off against Cordoba last weekend.
In England, he would get the worst of it from players like Ben Thatcher and Michael Ball when we played Manchester City. He did well not to react. These days, players like Cristiano are afforded a lot more protection and the days of going through an opposing team’s best players are, thankfully, long gone.
Yet it shows that, for all the restraint, the drip-drip of persistent fouling can still have an effect on even the top players.
Chelsea can still be caught, even if they see off City
Manchester City’s visit to Stamford Bridge tomorrow has been billed as a title decider. I don’t think so. Even if Chelsea win and go eight points clear at the top, I don’t think that is an irretrievable gap.
City looked like they were about to get going and then they came unstuck with a draw against Everton, then they lost to Arsenal and Middlesbrough in the FA Cup. For all that, I would not be surprised if they beat Chelsea.
It seems that when he returns from injury, Sergio Aguero needs five to six weeks to get back in the groove. Yaya Touré is a major absence for them, but more so when they are trying to break down teams at home and less when they are going away to other big sides. Aguero and David Silva could cause problems for this Chelsea defence in its current form.
Netball's a thrill ... and it’s got a United connection too
I was spotted by photographers on Monday evening watching my local netball team, the Manchester Thunder, beat Surrey Storm. I have watched a lot of netball over the last few years. My 13-year-old daughter Alicia is very keen on the sport. I really enjoy it. Manchester are the defending Superleague champions and their director of netball is Tracey Neville, sister of Gary and Phil.
There is a lot of skill involved. The pace of the game is very quick and the players have to be extremely fit to play. And don’t assume it isn’t combative, either. They get stuck in.
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