If proof were ever needed that the FA and Premier League run scared of Ferguson and Man Utd, the failure to take action against the ranting Scot, following the Newcastle game, must be it. Had any other manager of any other club entered the field of the play to harangue the referee, and conducted a protracted tirade at the fourth official and assistant referee for more than half the game, then a lengthy touchline ban would surely have followed.That’s not to say that I don’t have sympathy with Ferguson’s sense of injustice. He was wrong to claim that Evans was being pulled by Cisse, but the Newcastle man was indisputably in an offside position and was clearly both active and interfering in play. Any attempt to argue otherwise is absurd. Evans only directed the ball into his own net because he was desperately trying to prevent it from reaching Cisse. Had the Newcastle man not been there, Evans would have had time to trap the ball, bring it under control and direct it up field. The assistant was absolutely right to flag, and Dean was absolutely wrong to overrule him in my book.
But what followed was disgraceful and arguably affected the result. We saw in two West Ham games recently how referees actively seek to right wrongs over the course of a game. Cole was foolishly sent off against Everton, so Gibson followed in an equally stupid decision. Go back to the Chelsea game and the goal we wrongly had cancelled out for a foul by Collins was “put right” when Cole’s goal was allowed to stand despite an obvious foul.So, the question is, was the assistant consciously erring on the side of Man Utd when the fourth goal was scored? It is true that Hernandez was not offside, but it was a marginal decision, the sort of decision that officials get wrong as often as they get right. Did Jake Collin’s arm twitch? Was there a Scottish voice venting in his brain as he weighed up whether or not the Mexican was fractionally on or offside? It would have been bravery beyond the call of duty to raise the flag in the circumstances!
Just imagine what would have happened had a cricket coach behaved in this way. Or if this had happened in a top rugby game or at the Olympics! Football wants to clean up its act, but how can that happen when Ferguson is so obviously above the rules?
The offside law needs to be clarified because it is a muddle as it stands - either say a player has to make contact with the ball to become active and do away with the interfering with play rule altogether, or accept that if a player is in or around the six yard box when a goal is scored then he must be active. But it is equally important that the misconduct rule is applied consistently, without fear or favour. Only then will we have a level playing field.