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Ferguson the Silverback

In the aftermath of the hugely controversial and entertaining encounter between Chelsea and Man United on Sunday there has been an onslaught of jokes/abuse/parodies of referee Mark Clattenburg’s performance. Fergie’s 12th man some say whilst Howard Webb is on the bench. It is all very funny because there is no doubt Fernando Torres did not deserve a second yellow in the match, just not for Chelsea fans.

It has been a known for a long time that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has some kind of stranglehold on referees in the Premier League. First of all there is Fergie’s extra time, most recently seen in full effect when United scored a late winner in the 97th minute winner to beat Man City 4-3 at Old Trafford in 2009. Mark Hughes, City’s manager at the time, was not a happy bunny.

 Let’s not forget, too, the multitude of penalties awarded to Man United at extremely convinient times and under contentious circumstances. Ashley Young’s Tom Daley-esque dives last year anybody? Back in 2003 against Arsenal at Old Trafford, United were awarded a penalty in the last minute when a gust of wind knocked over Ruud van Nistelrooy (remember him?). Before you say anything, I completely acknowledge that United have the been the dominant force in English football throughout the Premier League era. It’s just that in some crucial moments they get, shall we say, the rub of the green here and there.

Now, I have a theory as to why this is. Ferguson is the longest serving manager in the league. He was there at the Premier League’s inception and, as such, is the alpha male, the Silverback if you will. Ferguson commands a great deal of respect for what he has done for the game and helped its global appeal. The referees know this which is why they think twice before making a decision when they are officiating a game involving his team. If the ol’ Silverback is displeased with a decision then he has the power to possibly jeopardise a referee’s career. So, almost subconsciously, the referees are a little more partial to Ferguson’s team.

Unfortunately, for as long as he is around, and that might be for a while yet as he is still going strong at 70, this will be the case. Chelsea fans are aghast by the injustice they have suffered at the hands of Clattenburg but all the moaning and complaining will not change the result. In Wednesday’s re-match in the League Cup, United fans displayed a wonderful sense of humour by unveiling a banner (mocking Chelsea’s fans John Terry banner) that stated ‘Clattenburg: Referee, Leader, Legend’. Just another referee obeying the Silverback’s wishes.